Nam Health Minister calls for behaviour change – … as 204 000 are living with the virus
Windhoek – Naminia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, has called on the nation to embrace behavioral change as a tool to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He was speaking at the Official Opening of the second National Conference of People living with HIV/AIDS held in Katima Mulilo, this week. He said focusing on HIV/AIDS preventative methods and programmes was one of the ways in which the pandemic could be reduced.
“Prevention of HIV must be priority number one. Therefore we need to break the trajectory of the epidemic by stopping new HIV infections. This means focusing on prevention for an HIV free-generation.” At least 204 000 people are living with HIV in Namibia. “This is almost a quarter of our population which is very high and gives us all sleepless nights,” the minister said.
He also pointed out a number of programmes such as the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) and Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VTC) as some of the successful programmes that had been rolled out in the 13 regions of the country by the Government.
The programmes are aimed at reducing the number of HIV infections from mothers to their babies as well as decreasing the number of HIV-related deaths by prolonging the lives of those infected with the virus.
“To date the number of patients on HAART in the public sector as of March 2009 was 64 637 Namibians,” Kamwi said.
“We have put in place the services of PMTCT-PCR for early diagnoses in January 2006.”
The Minister also used the platform to call on people not to discriminate against those living with HIV/AIDS, saying that prejudice destroys the dignity of the victims.
Kamwi further urged family members, particularly parents, to create a conducive environment for discussions and the transmission of skills that will enhance children’s understanding of risks and prevention of risky behaviour to address the pandemic.
Meanwhile, a recent report by the Ministry of Health and Social Services titled: HIV/AIDS in Namibia: Behavioural and Contexual Factors Driving the Epidemic, cites alcohol abuse, a practice which is high in Namibia, as one of the reasons for the spread of the epidemic.
Other factors include multiple and concurrent partnerships, intergenerational sex, low and inconsistent use of condoms as well as mobility and migration.