By Engel Nawatiseb OUTJO THE National Coordinator of The Alliance of Mayors’ aaInitiative for Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level (Amicaall) has lashed out at local authorities in Namibia for failing to introduce HIV/AIDS programmes at local level this year. Moderatha Shaduka launched the attack on villages, towns, and municipalities when she made a presentation on her institution’s activities and achievements at a stakeholder meeting at Outjo last week. She said that most local authorities were not serious in the fight against HIV/AIDS at their workplaces. She appealed to the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) to monitor the activities of its members and introduce punitive measures for failing local authorities as a matter of urgency. Shaduka stressed that her alliance was serious about increasing capacity at local and community level to enhance monitoring and evaluation but could only achieve those objectives through commitment by local authorities. “We want to increase availability of data and strategic information at the local level because the focus is on people rather than the virus. Also to reduce the social and economic impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic on communities in Africa as a whole.” Amicaall has developed a Local Authority HIV/AIDS Impact Assessment and Strategic Planning Toolkit through a consultative process recently, a truly Namibian product that is originally focussed on assisting municipalities in assessing the impact. She stressed that the tool can be adapted for use by local authorities as well as regional councils. Amicaall is funded through the Global Fund for Africa and has to date established ten municipal teams at Grootfontein, Okahandja, Karibib, Rehoboth, Keetmanshoop, Gobabis, Henties Bay, Gochas, Witvlei and Mariental. Action plans were also developed for Karibib and Grootfontein while the latter municipality has developed an HIV service directory that was launched on World AIDS day this year. The launch is second to the initiative of the City of Windhoek and should serve to encourage other local authorities to follow suit. She said that the pandemic has become an issue of life and death. Therefore, local authorities should not remain tight-lipped instead of saving the lives of innocent people by raising awareness on its dangers. Shaduka urged local authorities to implement the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS that is contained in the Third Medium Term Plan (MTP 3) for the 2004/2009 period. Meanwhile, the Vice President of ALAN, Pio Nganate, said his association is disturbed by Amicaall’s approach by operating in isolation from ALAN. He told the national coordinator that Amicaall was serving on ALAN structures and should establish a reporting line to the association for proper advice and monitoring of programmes that need to be implemented collaboratively. The meeting took issue with the selection criteria of local authorities that benefited from Amicaall activities since its inception in 1998. Shaduka however told the members that selection was conducted randomly for municipalities in close proximity with each other. This she said was done in order to save costs on travelling long distances instead of paying routine visits to local authorities in a selected region. “In fact, the year 2006 will benefit others in outlying areas such as Katima Mulilo. It is also true that proper consultation did not take place as required but these are but just lessons that we all have to adapt to in a bid to improve on our outputs in the new year,” she stated. The goal of rapid and significant expansion of the prevention, treatment, care and support and impact mitigation responses to the AIDS epidemic in the country cannot be achieved by Government alone. It requires all organizations and individuals, from communities, ministries, parastatals, the private sector, non-government organizations, faith based organizations, trade union organizations of people living with HIV/AIDS and development partners to become more actively involved in the planning and implementation of the response. The Director of Health in the Oshikoto Region, Maria Kavezembi, stated that the adverse impacts of stigma and discrimination are being increasingly recognized as key barriers to combating the epidemic. She stressed that the commitment to reduce stigma and discrimination should be viewed as a central guideline and principle in all national strategies. “Resource mobilization is another area that should also take into consideration defined priorities based on the vulnerability of various affected groups and communities and the potential impact of the interventions.” She said that equal access to basic services and care should also be guaranteed for all persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS while the national response must continuously be able to respond to the changing nature of the epidemic.