By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK ONE out of every five pregnant Namibian women is potentially infected with HIV/AIDS at the current prevalence rate of 19,8 percent. This shocking statistic was yesterday publicly revealed by Richard Kamwi, Minister of Health and Social Services. He was the guest speaker at the inauguration of the newly renovated Ante-Natal Clinic at the Katutura State Hospital. Kamwi received 18 brand- new vehicles as a donation from the American government by way of its ambassador, Joyce Barr, to be used in the fight against AIDS countrywide. “It is a fact that the impact of HIV/AIDS is more devastating to women, particularly pregnant women, as they may transmit the virus to their babies. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS has emerged as the most important factor contributing to adult and child morbidity and mortality. The 2004 national prevalence ratio among pregnant women was 19,8 percent. This means that one in five pregnant women is potentially infected with HIV/AIDS,” Kamwi said. A large number of Katutura residents and invited guests attended the event, which was held in front of the clinic. “The Government recognises the unprecedented threat and challenge that HIV/AIDS poses to the country’s national development. We have during the last three years taken a number of measures to respond meaningfully and purposefully to the pandemic. Among others, my ministry introduced prevention of mother-to-child transmission services.” Kamwi informed his audience that 31 hospitals and more than 60 health centres and clinics are also providing the service. According to Kamwi, the programmes primarily focus on AIDS prevention, unintended pregnancies among HIV-infected women and the provision of treatment, care and support to AIDS-affected families. “The challenges to maintain the programme require proper planning. As services become more acceptable, clients are increasing and the space in our existing health facilities becomes insufficient, not only in the capital, but also everywhere in the country. “Thanks to financial assistance from the Centre for Disease Control and the Global Fund, the Katutura Ante Natal Clinic in particular is now in a better position to deliver better services,” the minister said. He urged pregnant women to make use of the services and to volunteer to come for counselling and testing. “I am confident that through hard work and dedication from all of us, we shall emerge victorious in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially among our pregnant women.” he said. After receiving the 18 vehicles from Barr, Kamwi issued a stern warning to drivers of such vehicles. “Reckless drivers overturning vehicles deliberately will be disciplined.” Barr praised both the Namibian and American governments for their ongoing efforts to address the problem of AIDS. “The Katutura Hospital plays a very important role in the provision or the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of AIDS. The hospital has been a key contributor to strengthening the national programme and has provided leadership to other hospitals in the country. It is my sincere hope that more pregnant women and their partners will make use of these services in order to protect the children of Namibia,” Barr said. She pledged her government’s ongoing financial support for the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
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