Launch Event of the LAFIYA HIV Self-Testing Study in Ghana

Background: 

In the heart of Ghana's slums, young sexual minority men (YSMM) face formidable barriers—societal stigma, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare—hindering their access to crucial HIV and sexual health services. Understanding these barriers, researchers from the University of Rochester School of Nursing and the Behavioral, Sexual & Global Health Lab, in collaboration with the University of Ghana School of Public Health, have embarked on a study: the "Adaptation and Feasibility of Many Men Many Voices (3MV), an HIV prevention intervention to reduce intersectional stigma and increase HIVST among young sexual minority men (YSMM) residing in Ghanaian slums," with the short name known as the "LAFIYA HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) Study.""LAFIYA" derives from the Hausa language, meaning "wellness." Funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), this study aims to address intersectional stigma, explore preferences for HIV self-testing, and enhance linkage to care among YSMM in Ghanaian slum communities. 

Objectives of the Study: 

  • Assess intersectional stigma and options for HIVST implementation.
  • Adapt 3MV to LAFIYA HIVST intervention to address intersectional stigma and HIVST among YSMM.
  • Test acceptance, feasibility, appropriateness, and preliminary efficacy of the intervention to address intersectional stigma and increase HIVST uptake.

 Professor Kwasi Torpey, the Site-Principal Investigator

 The Launch Event: The launch of the LAFIYA HIVST Study commenced with an opening remark from Professor Kwasi Torpey, the Site-Principal Investigator and Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana. Professor Torpey extended a warm welcome to all attendees, expressing gratitude for their presence and anticipating a successful launch meeting. Among the distinguished guests were representatives from various organizations, including the Ghana Health Service, the National HIV/STI Control Program (NACP), the West African AIDS Foundation, a representative from the Ghana Police Service, some healthcare workers, and other community-based organizations. Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programs Manager for the National HIV/STI Control Program, delivered the keynote address, highlighting the importance of HIV self-testing in identifying cases in need of care and expressing optimism about the potential impact of the LAFIYA HIVST Study on Ghana's response to the HIV epidemic. Dr. Ayisi Addo emphasized the need for early detection and treatment of STIs and reaffirmed the Ghana Health Service's commitment to ensuring equitable access to healthcare for all. 

Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programs Manager for the National HIV/STI Control Program

During the presentation, an overview of the LAFIYA HIVST Study was given, with an emphasis on its objective to understand the experiences of stigma and discrimination among young sexual minority men living in Accra's slums. The study aims to improve HIV prevention and care among this vulnerable population by increasing HIVST uptake and improving linkage to care, and its expected outcomes will provide scientific evidence to support this goal. During the discussion session, Dr. Ayisi Addo proposed incorporating a mental health component into future studies, underscoring the importance of holistic healthcare approaches. The Greater Accra Regional HIV Coordinator pledged support for the study's success, affirming its potential to strengthen research capabilities and enhance HIV healthcare programs in Ghana.

In closing, the launch event marked a significant milestone in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Ghana, with the LAFIYA HIVST Study poised to make a substantial contribution to improving healthcare access and reducing stigma among marginalized populations. As the journey unfolds, the LAFIYA HIVST Study stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a future of wellness and health equality for all. 

LIST OF INVESTIGATORS 
Dr. Gamji Rabiu Abu-Ba'are(Principal Investigator)  Assistant Professor University of Rochester School of Nursing Rochester, NYProf. Kwasi Torpey(Site-Principal Investigator)  Dean School of Public Health University of Ghana
Dr. LaRon Nelson (Project Mentor)  Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing Associate Dean, Global Affairs & Planetary Health Yale School of NursingDr. Donaldson Conserve (Co-Investigator)  Associate Professor Dept. of Prevention & Community Health The George Washington University, USA
Dr. Adom Manu (Co-Investigator)  Senior Lecturer School of Public Health University of GhanaDr. Sangchoon Jeon (Co-Investigator)  Senior Research Scientist Yale School of Medicine
Dr. James M. McMahon (Co-investigator)  Associate Professor School of Nursing University of Rochester Medical Center

By Gyasi Nimako Isaac