How Far Have We Come against AIDS?


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia is expected to announce the results of the latest 2006 Sero-Sentinel Prevalence survey this Friday. The survey will indicate how far the country has gone with its fight against the incurable HIV/AIDS. The last such results were released in 2004. These showed that the infection rate stood at 22 percent according to Dr Marcus Goraseb, the Deputy Director in the Directorate of Special Programmes, who said the number of people who live with the disease is over 250 000 with 1 600 deaths recorded. The figure of women tested to enroll on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme was 1 500, but with only 400 agreeing to undergo treatment. While the nation looks forward to the latest statistics, the Namibia Business Coalition on AIDS (NABCOA) representative, Peter van Wyk, said whatever the results might be Namibians cannot become complacent, as there is still a need for new interventions. Research, he added, has shown that strategies and interventions including the A, B and C are not having the desired impact on especially young people hence the call for new interventions. “We should start thinking about new ideas or interventions targeting the youth. But it should be done by the youth for the youth,” suggested Van Wyk. Meanwhile, the City of Windhoek has embarked upon an awareness-raising campaign as a build-up to World Aids Day on 1 December 2006. Hosted under the slogan, “We Care” and targeting all the residents of Windhoek, this campaign, which started on 20 November and which will run until the end of this month, aims to show solidarity with people infected and affected by the pandemic. Last Friday, the City of Windhoek organized and led a well-attended march from Ausspannplatz to Zoo Park where residents gathered to take part in the official World Aids Day campaign and awareness ceremony. At the occasion, Windhoek City Councillor, Boas Ekandjo, said there is a need for greater involvement of business and political leaders in all spheres of society to eliminate stigma and discrimination directed at people living with HIV/AIDS. He said despite some progress made in HIV/AIDS prevention, challenges remain especially with regard to changes in behaviour, communication and life skills training related to HIV/AIDS amongst the youth. “Challenges also remain with the provision of essential services like voluntary counselling and testing as well as the provision of treatment, care and support to the affected and infected people,” said Ekandjo. He added there is also an urgent need to establish effective partnerships with government, non-governmental organisations, civil society and other community-based organisations to coordinate efforts in addressing all aspects of HIV/AIDS. “As testimony to this, USAID entered into a cooperation agreement with us in 2003 in support of the City of Windhoek HIV/AIDS programme in general, and towards the implementation of a joint community based HIV/AIDS project,” he added. Approximately US$50 000 in USAID resources have been available for orphans and vulnerable children, soup kitchens, HIV/AIDS awareness programmes and other activities since June 2006, said USAID representative Sangita Patel. Ekandjo called for a need to establish an HIV/AIDS forum, as this will provide a platform for consensus building on HIV/AIDS issues. This will also aid the City of Windhoek in achieving its objective of ensuring that HIV/AIDS is mainstreamed in all sectors. Chief Executive Officer of the City of Windhoek, Niilo Taapopi, at the same occasion commended those who came out in numbers to support the cause, adding that the large crowd that turned up for the march underlines the great support that the city received during the campaign. “With such support, I have every confidence that we are going to prevail in our fight against this dreaded disease. Let us, therefore, rededicate ourselves to continue the fight until the battle is won,” Taapopi said.