Rising HIV infections among young women

Windhoek-The Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) says there is a need to expand key interventions among the youth, especially girls between the ages of 15 to 24 to break the vicious HIV transmission cycle.

NAPPA head of programmes, John Katjiua, last Friday said a quarter of new HIV infections in the world occur among young women in Africa.

As part of its interventions, NAPPA has extended its services of HIV counselling, testing and post-test support to the Namibian College of Open Learning (Namcol).

The initiative at Namcol covers Grade 10 and 12 learners, who held their 2017 academic opening at Yetu Yama centre in Katutura last Friday.

NAPPA has also provided sexual reproductive health services to other educational institutions of higher learning such as the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Katjiua revealed that a record number of 42 women aged between 15-24 years of age contracted the HIV infection every week in Namibia.

"In Namibia, new instances of HIV are on the increase among the 15-24 age categories. We have a concern about these young people. We must help to stop the spread.

"We are supposed to ensure that we test 90 percent of people for HIV and those who are infected must be put on medication. This is the same age group that is also low in services uptake and it's the same group that is very slow when it comes to self-risk perception," he observed. He cautioned young women to desist from the wrong perception about men who just appear healthy.

"The man has a Navara. How could he be positive? That's what most girls say," he said.

Since the youth are reluctant to go for clinical services, the NAPPA head of programmes said they put great effort into making the centres more youth-friendly.

To achieve this, the centres now include free wireless connections, youth advisory boards for clinics to advise service providers on the needs of the youth and adolescents.

They also offer youth peer-counsellors, painting of murals and outreach services at youth locations such as institutions of higher learning.

Katjiua called on stakeholders to engage NAPPA for partnership opportunities that offer sexual reproductive health and Primary Health Care.

As of January to December 2016, NAPPA had reached about 37,786 women in various categories but only 8,060 men countrywide. Out of these, 51 percent were above 25 years of age, 32 percent between 20-24, while 16 percent comprised of the 15-19 age categories and 1 percent was between 10 and 14 years of age.

NAPPA is the only agent outside government that provides sexual reproductive health (SRH) information in Namibia.

Katjiua noted that NAPPA's main target groups were adolescents and in-and out-of-school youth between the ages of 10-24 years.

Secondary target groups included lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTI) people, sex workers, parents, teachers and community members in general - including health-care workers themselves.

NAPPA through its clinics also offers family planning (including free morning after pill), antenatal care, HIV counselling services, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy testing.

In addition, it provides community outreach services, sexual reproductive health counselling, screening for breast and cervical cancer, anti-retroviral (ARTs) medication and HIV/syphilis dual testing.

"All services are free at our clinics and no police questions asked," Katjiua said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia