Lives Too Valuable to Be Risked

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By Wiliam J. Mbangula OSHAKATI Namibia is one of the countries in Africa with the fastest-growing antiretroviral therapy programme. So far, the government has distributed this life-prolonging therapy to 35 hospitals throughout the country. And very soon such services should be extended to clinics and health centres once the people with the required skills are available. The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, announced this when he opened the first-ever national conference on people living with HIV/Aids at Ongwediva last Thursday. The conference, facilitated by Lironga Eparu, started on November 28 and was attended by close to 400 participants from all over the country. “Although persons living with HIV can live fully productive lives, it is clear that this becomes increasingly difficult once the immune system is severely affected by HIV. However, with the increased availability of ARV drugs, new options to reduce the impact of HIV/Aids have become available. “Besides prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) treatment to prevent accidental infection of health workers and rape survivors, we are offering highly active antiretroviral therapy for persons with advanced HIV infections in all 13 regions of Namibia,” he said. Currently, there are close to 27ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 of the 58ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 Namibians living with HIV/Aids who are receiving treatment in public health facilities, while 8ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 are receiving such treatment in private institutions. Namibia has close to 230ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 cases of people living with HIV/Aids. For this reason, and many others, the minister directed that no one should be denied access to medical facilities if they do not have the N$10 to pay for the services. Although he acknowledged the importance of paying such fees, he explained that the lives of people are too valuable to be risked only because they cannot afford such fees.