Adequate Food Needed for ARV Programme

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK NAMIBIA feels the provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy alone is not enough as there is a need for the adequate provision of food to people living with HIV if the implementation of this treatment programme is to succeed. Speaking during the main festivity to mark World Aids Day yesterday, Prime Minister Nahas Angula said Namibia has been singled out as among the few countries in Southern Africa that have made strides in providing free Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) though he feels the programme is being hampered by the lack of food among those receiving treatment. He called for the intensification of available social economic programmes to ensure those on ART have adequate food. The event to mark World AIDS Day was attended by several MPs, diplomats and UN representatives among others. In the past, cases have been reported that some of the HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country are unable to take their medication due to lack of food. Like most drugs, it is recommended that ARVs be taken on a full stomach. In Namibia 13 274 people presently receive ART, making it one of the leading countries in the region with regard to provision of ART. Since the declaration of HIV/AIDS in the country in 1986, the epidemic has shown some signs of stabilisation. The Prime Minister announced that based on the 2004 National HIV Sentinel Survey, the prevalence rate in the past two years has decreased from 22 percent to 19,7 percent. Windhoek, the capital and one of the most densely populated towns in Namibia, has in the past two years shown a decrease in the prevalence rate from 27 percent to 22 percent. Similarly, Oshakati reported a decline of 30 percent to 25 percent. However, the decline does not necessarily call for celebration. The report reveals some worrisome trends in some parts of the country. Swakopmund’s prevalence rate went up from 16 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2004, while at Nankudu the rate increased from 16 percent to 19 percent. Looking at the critical age group of 15 to 19, there has been a decrease in the prevalence rate from 11 to 10 percent recorded at antenatal clinics. Even so, the Premier says it is very disturbing when one thinks of what this age group is doing at these places while they are supposed to be in classrooms studying to make a meaningful contribution to the economic development of the country. “It is time to take stock of our interventions and strategies to ensure that they are appropriately targeted. It is time to see stabilisation and decline of HIV prevalence in all sites where the study is conducted,” indicated Angula. This year’s World AIDS Day is commemorated under the theme, “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise”. Considering that the country does not only face the HIV/AIDS challenge but also high levels of violence against women, on this day the Prime Minister also urged men to “make a promise to stop AIDS and violence against women and children! “For those who have already made the promise, keep the promise to stop AIDS and violence against women and children!” The Namibian government vows to keep the promise and so have the civil society, private sector, development partners, and leaders called to “Stop AIDS, Make/Keep the Promise!”