NDF Suffers Under HIV

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK HIV/AIDS is proving beyond the combat abilities of the Namibia Defence Force (NDF), according to statistics revealed by the Deputy Minister of Defence Victor Simunja recently in the Caprivi Region. ‘The rate of infection in the military is higher than in other professions,” he said. The pandemic has reached levels of becoming a security threat in the country and the SADC region, as its prevalence rate is now 17 times higher than the average global rate, he noted. “The ten countries with the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world are all SADC member states,” he reiterated. An aggressive and tireless campaign against the disease in this sector is therefore needed to address areas such as prevention, treatment, care and support. Considering that statistics have shown the region is the most affected by the epidemic, he says Namibia should facilitate strategies to combat and manage the impact of HIV/Aids within the defence and security sphere. On Monday, the ministry started with an Anti-Retroviral Therapy Protocol Training workshop that is aimed at training the first 20 NDF nurses who would empower other nurses in their respective units with knowledge and skills. During the official opening of the workshop, the Ministry’s Director of Finance Rauna Hamata confirmed that the number of new infections, illnesses and deaths are still rising at an alarming rate. “The workshop will also help soldiers improve their ability to undergo voluntary testing in order to know their HIV status. This would hopefully facilitate care and support and empower the soldiers to adhere to treatment,” Hamata stated. “The outcome of this (four-day) workshop will also contribute to the fight against stigma and discrimination among the soldiers,” she added. Participants came from Otavi, Otjiwarongo, Okahandja, Erongo and Keetmanshoop. Other units from Oshakati, Katima Mulilo and Rundu will be covered during a second workshop,” said Captain Peter Shilumbu. This workshop follows a recent course that looked at preparing security institutions for multinational peacekeeping missions. The course further dealt with the deployment of troops for the purpose of containing conflict, and the utilization of armed forces as demanded by the multinational peacekeeping programme. Military personnel stay away from their families for long periods during deployment hence they become more vulnerable to the pandemic than the general population. “The impact does not only affect their immediate families but the whole process of participation in peacekeeping operations systems of their respective countries,” stated the deputy minister. The military in the less developed world are badly hit by the disease. Some countries in the region have experienced rising infection rates among individuals in the military than the civilian population. The attrition created by this magnitude of infection, according to the deputy minister, inevitably causes loss of continuity at command level and within the ranks, increase cost of recruitment and training of replacements, and reduce military preparedness, internal stability and external security.