UNAIDS Applauds Nam Efforts in HIV Fight

UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, has given Namibia a thumbs-up for its efforts to reduce the number of HIV cases, saying the country has shown exemplary political leadership and community mobilisation in the AIDS response.

Tlou was on a six-day visit to Namibia a week ago to monitor progress on how well the country was faring in the fight against the disease. She said the country has increased its domestic funding to above 60% for the AIDS response in the recent budget estimates, a figure she says is close to the one stipulated in the Abuja Declaration.

“The government with the leadership of the First Lady is accelerating its efforts to boost male involvement and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” she said.

According to Unicef, HIV infections in Namibia are declining, with new HIV infections going down from 23 000 in 2001 to 10 000 in 2012 and states that the country is also accelerating its efforts to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission.

“Fewer babies are born with HIV. New HIV infections among children declined from 3 100 in 2001 to less than 1 000 in 2012,” said Tlou. She also pointed out that more pregnant women are accessing treatment and that access to prevention of Mother To Child Transmission services continues to increase steadily, from 79% in 201011 to 94% in September 2013.

Tlou, however, said that Namibia has to make sure that these tremendous gains are not jeopardised.

“We need to strengthen active community involvement in the response to ensure HIV prevention, uptake of services and adherence to medication. We need to ensure linkages and integration with broader health services, especially for sexual and reproductive health and GBV services,” she said.

The director also urged the country to focus on reaching populations at risk with crucial HIV services.

“To demonstrate leadership in this effort, Namibia needs to make bold decisions to reach young people, especially young women, who continue to face violence and inequality that puts them at high risk of contracting HIV,” she said.

She argued that there was a need to overcome harmful cultural practices, religious conservatism and a legal environment that hinder key population from accessing life-saving HIV services.

“We cannot end this epidemic if we do not protect sex workers, prisoners, mobile workers and men who have sex with men and ensure that they access services.

Tlou said in the face of declining external resources, Namibia needs to strengthen national ownership and global solidarity to jointly build a sustainable national AIDS response.

“Namibia needs to further innovative methods to increase domestic resources ensuring sustainably of its response. I urge Namibia to accelerate the development of the national investment case to increase domestic funding and ensure resources are invested strategically,” she said.

Source : The Namibian