15 Declare HIV-Positive Status

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By Michael Liswaniso OPUWO The musical performance by the prominent long-serving band of Opuwo, Bullet ya Kaoko, set the tempo as early as 07h00 at the Opuwo sports complex on Friday, when all roads led to the official commemoration of World AIDS Day that was held at the town for the first time at national level. Before the keynote address was delivered by Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, on behalf of Prime Minister Nahas Angula who was attending a meeting in Nigeria, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, who gave a brief overview of the acceleration of HIV prevention, said Opuwo’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate as in the year 2004 was ranked the lowest. Opuwo, according to Kamwi, stood at 9 percent compared to Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi Region that stood at 43 percent. He applauded the town and the region in particular for this, saying the town should keep it up and where possible drag it down some more. He pledged government’s continued support towards the fight against HIV/AIDS by giving a brief background that since 2002 when government introduced the mother-to-child prevention programme, a lot of people have benefited, while the programme is still in force in all 35 state hospitals in the country. Kamwi pointed out that plans are underway to also include clinics and health centres. “Twenty-seven people are receiving anti-retroviral drugs in public hospitals, whereas 8 000 people are from private institutions and out of this figure, 16 percent are children.” He also added that the figure is one of the highest in Africa. Acknowledging that he was aware of his own HIV status, Kamwi challenged whether everyone present at the Opuwo sports complex knew his or her own HIV/AIDS status. He strongly advised that knowing one’s status is vital, since that is the only way that treatment and counselling can be obtained should they be needed. At the same time, he called on people to stop discriminating against those infected with the virus. “Let us treat those infected with a human face.” At the same occasion, 15 women who are residents of Kunene, mainly from the Outjo constituency, publicly declared their positive HIV/AIDS status. They were led by Claudia Ais, a member of the Outjo support group who delivered motivational remarks on their behalf, saying she had been living with the disease for the past eight years but she is still going strong. For her, living with the virus is not the end of the world but what she termed “a new beginning of something in life”. She thanked government for the current support and called on people to stop discriminating against those infected with the virus. “HIV/AIDS is the enemy not the people who are infected, because we the people need you and you need us, so let us fight the disease together not the people.” The gathering was guided by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, who was the director of ceremonies.