HIV/AIDS hits Namibia hard

These startling facts were revealed last Wednesday by the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, who was the keynote speaker at the 10th annual HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign at the Polytechnic of Namibia. The two-day event was presented under the theme, “Breaking the Barriers”. “Today we are gathered here to renew our commitment to fight AIDS and to support the country’s youth in their fight against the pandemic. Pertinent questions that need to be answered are: Is AIDS that much of an issue that you, as students, should worry about it? Why should learning institutions care about HIV/AIDS? And what can each Namibian do about AIDS?” Kamwi noted. In his view, AIDS had become one of the most devastating diseases mankind had ever faced. In a related story, USAID-Namibia mission director Gary Newton said there was no sustainable solution to the country’s AIDS crisis other than prevention. He made the remarks at the start of a two-day workshop on HIV/AIDS Research Dissemination and Programme Application Session jointly organised by the Health Communications Partnership (HCP) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Windhoek. He said critically important care and treatment services were giving thousands of Namibians new hope and a better and longer life, but prevention was the only way. Newton said 210 000 people were already HIV-infected, and recurrent costs of caring for the estimated 170 000 children already orphaned or made vulnerable by the epidemic, would be formidable. “It is imperative that we continually improve our understanding of how HIV/AIDS is being transmitted in Namibia, what we can do to interrupt transmission, and whether interventions are effective in changing behaviour,” he said. Newton added that the kind of research being done by JHU was yielding the kind of information required to get the upper hand on AIDS, which was vital to prevent new infections. He said although information was inadequate, “the challenge is to take what we have got and squeeze every ounce of utility from it”. The research indicates that while people in Namibia continue to have good knowledge about HIV transmission, prevention and available services, they are selectively adopting behaviours that reduce their risk of becoming infected. ‘ New Era/Nampa.

May 2006
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