By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK HIV/AIDS continues to exact a grim toll on the population, spreading so fast that at least 40 percent of deaths are attributed to this incurable disease, the First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba said. The First Lady voiced her concern about the pandemic at the HIV/AIDS Fashion Show 2006 at the weekend. She said the rapid spread of the disease and its negative impact on the economy can never be ignored. “We all know that HIV/AIDS infection is spreading rapidly across our country. From our relatively small population of 2 million, the number of those infected stands at 23 percent of the total population,” she said. With a population of around 1,8 million, Namibia has an estimated 200 000 people living with HIV/AIDS, of which 56 percent are women. Every year, an estimated 15 000 Namibians succumb to full-blown AIDS. Namibia with an infection rate of 19,7 percent, is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are hardest hit by the disease. The highest prevalence rate of infection occurs in the age bracket 24-29, the age group of young adults in the prime of life. Since 1996, AIDS has been the leading cause of death in the country. The deadly virus does not only threaten the productive workforce but is also tearing families apart. The disease alone has left more than 85 000 orphans countrywide. If nothing is done about the ongoing spread of the disease, it is projected that by 2021, Namibia will have 250 000 orphans. This situation, she said, calls for concerted efforts to ensure that those infected and affected are not excluded from economic activities. “This is a problem the people of Namibia must face together. Together we must create an environment in which those infected and affected can feel comfortable and join the fight against HIV/AIDS,” she stated. Organized by Oxygen Communications, the HIV/AIDS Fashion Show 2006 generated funds in excess of N$7 000. The amount will be donated to the Organization for Empowerment of Widows/Widowers and Orphans of HIV and AIDS in Namibia (OEWONA), a brainchild of the First Lady. Thirty sets of uniforms were also donated to the charity organization. OEWONA as an organization strives to make the lives of those infected, their families, widow(s)/ers and orphans better by training them in tailoring and computers to empower them with knowledge and skills for employment opportunities and later for them to contribute meaningfully to the economy. This is the first time the event was held, and based on what the Managing Director of Oxygen Communications, Hilda Namundjebo-Basson said, the aim is to make it an annual event. The fashion show provides a platform for artists and designers to demonstrate their compassion, love and care as a way of easing the pain and suffering of those infected and affected by the disease. Artists who participated in this year’s show included the Dogg, Gal Level, Killer B and the African Boy.
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