The National AIDS/STI Control Programme (NACP) will next year deploy an electronic medical recording system that will track people who test positive for HIV from the first day of testing positive to the time they attain viral suppression.
Also known as case-based surveillance, people who test positive for HIV would be given unique identity (ID) numbers that would be linked to access to treatment and laboratory tests, including viral load.
The Programme Manager of NACP, Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, said the essence was to get the accurate number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country and also correct discrepancies between the number of persons identified as HIV positive and those on treatment.
“Despite the fact that we have changed our guidelines to start treatment of people the same day we test them when we analyze our database, you realise immediately the discrepancies between testing and linkage to treatment.
The output, therefore, is a low ART linkage rate,” he said.
Dr Addo disclosed this at the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The event, which started on December 4, 2023, ended on December 9, 2023.
Later in an interview with the Daily Graphic, Dr Addo further said that the electronic medical record system when introduced would enhance outcomes such that if a client accessed services anywhere, they would be able to track them to avoid duplicates in reporting as a result of repeat testing.
He also said the unique IDs would be biometrically linked to other national identification systems, including those of private and public health facilities in the country to make referrals easier.
“Now if you are taking your Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) in the Greater Accra Region and you want to go to the Eastern Region to continue, we refer you with your book, but with this electronic medical system which is interlinked, the referral will be done within the system and immediately when you go to the Eastern Region, your name will already be in the system,” Dr Addo added.
He said they would piggyback on what the Ministry of Health had started with a light wave management system which they were working on with some software providers.
The last level, the programme manager said, was to work with the National Identification Authority (NIA) to link the registration of the unique ID to their biometric data so that if a person attempted to use a pseudo name, the system would expose him or her.
On the issue of confidentiality, Dr Addo gave an assurance that anybody who would be involved with the system would be subjected to data protection of their HIV identity, adding that access to the data will be limited to only service providers.
Currently, he said countries such as Eswatini, Nigeria, and Uganda have deployed a similar system on a pilot basis.
“We must take advantage of the current digitalisation opportunities to enhance HIV service delivery and reporting,” Dr Addo said.