WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Health and Social Services has acquired four mobile vans with the assistance of the United States Centre for Disease Control.
The vans were handed over in the capital yesterday and will be integrated into the ministry‘s Primary Health Care (PHC) outreach services programme.
The vans, which cost N$1,4 million each, will be dispatched to the Ohangwena, Caprivi, Karas and Kunene regions. Another six mobile vans will be acquired at a later stage. The mobile vans will help the ministry to reach communities residing in remote areas of the country and will, amongst other things, provide HIV testing and counselling services, health education and antenatal services.
In a speech read on his behalf by his Deputy Permanent Secretary Dr Norbert Vorster at the handing-over, the health minister said Namibia has made significant progress to ensure increased coverage of HIV counselling and testing (HCT) services in the country.
He added that to date, a cumulative total of 293 public health facilities rolled out rapid HIV testing delivery points, which translates to coverage of 88 percent.
The health minister noted that the uptake of clients has dramatically increased over the past five years, with the total number of clients who received HCT and received their results during the period April 2011 to March 2012, standing at 305 432. This represents a nine per cent achievement above the country‘s target of 280 000.
“Although the uptake of HCT services shows marked increases, the data also indicates that HCT remains low, particularly for men in both urban and rural communities and couples,” Kamwi noted.
The low levels of testing amongst these groups, he explained, poses significant challenges for Namibia‘s HIV prevention and care and treatment programmes.
According to the health minister, financial challenges coupled with geographic limitations are some of the major obstacles to accessing HCT services.
Inadequate HCT facilities, particularly mobile and door-to-door testing, have been identified as some of the major gaps in the 2010/11 to 2015/16 National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS.
“Given the vast distances and the sparse distribution of people in Namibia, mobile services are critical in providing access to HIV counselling and testing services,” Kamwi said, adding that the ministry has realised the need for additional innovative and varied approaches to continue scaling up HCT services.
He further announced that in addition to the provision of HCT services at fixed ministry of health facilities, New Start Centres and various other workplace programmes, the ministry along with the Development AID for People to People will soon pilot the home-based testing approach in the Kavango and Oshana regions. - Nampa