HIV Threatens Our Progress

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By Michael Liswaniso OPUWO Prime Minister Nahas Angula has acknowledged that HIV/AIDS is a great threat facing the country. The disease is undermining the progress that has been made since independence, given the fact that it is having a negative impact on the lives of young people who are the most economically productive members of society. However, in his keynote address at the official commemoration of World AIDS Day in Opuwo, Angula quoted from the 2004 Data Sentinel Surveillance, which was conducted by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and reiterated the remarks by the Minister of Health and Social Services, who said that the town indicated the lowest HIV infection rates among pregnant women, standing at 9 percent at the time. Commending Opuwo for the low rates, he added that he hopes to see similar results when the 2006 survey is out soon. “My sincere hope is to see a further decline of HIV infection in this region.” Angula’s speech was read on his behalf by Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba. He noted that the government through its bilateral and multilateral partners is managing to show that it cares, considering that more than 30 000 Namibians are on anti-retroviral treatment. However, despite all achievements, HIV/AIDS still remains a problem and challenge due to new infections that occur every day, he admitted. Angula bemoaned the fact that even though Namibia’s external support to complement government’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS has increased, especially from the Global Fund and the United States President’s Emergency Fund, among others, it is disturbing to see more new infections. “It is disheartening to see new infections as we are now well equipped with adequate knowledge and skills to halt the spread of the pandemic and also to provide the necessary care and support for both the infected and affected.” The Premier cited the lack of implementation of HIV prevention intervention efforts in sufficient scale and coverage as the major problem leading to new infections, which he said if implemented in the right way could halt the epidemic. Half of the new infections, according to the Premier, occur in young people aged between 15 and 24 years, while the increasing risk of infection is more evident among women and young girls who constitute about a third of the overall population of young people living with HIV/AIDS. “This huge burden of the epidemic no doubt calls for the adoption and implementation of special measures and emergency action to stop the further spread of HIV. We cannot afford to fail, nor do we have excuses to do so,” he declared. Because the new infections are prevalent among young people, a fact that prompted this year’s national theme, “Zero tolerance of new infections among the youth”, Angula advised young people to postpone the onset of sexual activity until such time as they are more ready to commit themselves to safe relationships. He advised young people to stop the abuse of alcohol but rather concentrate on education and to log onto other developmental projects. Calling on people to keep their promises and prevent new infections, Angula asked all parents to talk to their children about the scourge of HIV/AIDS, a strategy that he believes is another tool in mitigating the pandemic. The PM thanked non-governmental organizations and all people involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS as well as all those present at the national commemoration, adding that without their support, the day could not have been held. “Your unwavering support is giving us hope where once we could only see darkness. The presence of many of you here today, and your commitment in assisting the Namibian nation to win the fight against HIV/AIDS, is good.” He also promised that government is ready to support all efforts and will not fail. All the day’s proceedings were translated by the regional head of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Weich Mupya, from English to Otjiherero, while Revonia Brandt of Medicos del Mundo, translated into Damara/Nama.