‘I don’t know how I contracted HIV’

Omitara-When 52-year-old Maria Afrikaner started feeling ill at the beginning of this year, she had no idea that the diagnosis would be HIV.

Explaining her symptoms, Afrikaner, who permitted this newspaper to reveal her identity as part of her contribution to awareness against the deadly virus, said she was constantly weak and started losing weight at lightning pace.

My head was also affected because I almost lost my mind. I was admitted to Gobabis State Hospital for some time and that was when the doctors decided to test my blood for HIV, said the soft-spoken Afrikaner.

The mother of five said she does not feel well emotionally because she is always sick. The frail-looking Afrikaner had just come from the clinic in Omitara when the New Era team ran into her.

She could barely carry her plastic bag consisting of nutritional supplements.

My husband was tested after my diagnosis but his blood is clean. I don't know where I got the sickness. I must have been raped while I was drunk and subsequently got infected, said Afrikaner.

Afrikaner explained that her husband has accepted her condition and tries his best to take care of her, despite their limited resources.

We do not engage in sexual activities because my husband has a condition that has affected his libido. We stay at a farm not far from here. I just came here to Omitara to seek medical attention, said Afrikaner, whose elderly mother and children live in Omitara.

Afrikaner, who together with her cousin, Bettie !Aoxas, shared Afrikaner's condition, explained that there is not much going on in Omitara and the surrounding areas in creating awareness on HIV/AIDS.

They explained that awareness campaigns are necessary because there are many people in the settlement who may not know how best to protect themselves or live positively with the virus.

They also explained that many people abuse alcohol, which may contribute to reckless behaviour, which may contribute to the HIV pandemic.

There was a time when people were giving information on HIV in the settlement. But we don't see them anymore. I really don't feel good that I am sick like this. I don't know where this sickness came from, she said.

To make it worse, Afrikaner and her husband only eat twice a day. We are San people. We used to survive on drought relief but we have not had that since the beginning of the year, said Afrikaner. The drought relief food consisted mainly of rice, maize meal or soup, she added.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) website, Namibia has reduced new HIV infections among children by 79% since 2009.

Namibia provides antiretroviral medicines to 95 percent of pregnant women living with HIV, meeting the Global Plan goal of 90 percent coverage.

This means that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV in Namibia should be identified and know their status. It also means that by the same year, 90 percent of those identified should be on antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of those on antiretroviral treatment should have their viral load suppressed.

In Namibia about 85 percent of people living with HIV know their status, while 86 percent of those who are HIV positive are on antiretroviral treatment and 84 percent of those on antiretroviral treatment have their viral load suppressed.

Furthermore, it is indicated on the website that Namibia has the highest rate of children receiving paediatric treatment among the priority countries. In 2015 over 95% of children living with HIV received antiretroviral therapy.

Still, HIV remains the number one killer in Namibia with up to 3,900 deaths annually, according to current statistics.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia