By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A total of 26 male and female community counsellors working with HIV/AIDS patients throughout the country on Friday graduated from an intensive three-month training programme in the capital. The programme, presented by Secure Health Consultants, is an ongoing and collective training project between the Ministry of Health and the Namibian Red Cross. A total of 26 more participants are expected to graduate this Friday bringing the total to 270 counsellors countrywide. “Today marks yet another milestone in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country. In March 2005 the Namibian Red Cross Society entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Health to provide 350 community counsellors to all public health facilities in the country,” said Fredrika Herero, coordinator of the Department of National Community Counsellors at the graduation ceremony. According to her the aim of the training programme is to reduce the counselling and testing burden on health workers due to HIV/AIDS. “The role and responsibility of the NRCS are to manage the community counsellors through supervision and giving support to them. Presently there are more than 200 such counsellors in the country working with about 8 500 clients per month. These counsellors do important work in providing much needed assistance to formal health workers such as doctors and nurses in the improvement of the provision of quality health services,” Herero said. Through this training programme community members learn their HIV status, pregnant mothers can access PMTCT and through counselling and testing infected people can access anti-retroviral therapy. “This programme is recognized nationally and internationally. Through the International Federation of the Red Cross the programme is at present being documented as a best practice example for other countries with the same HIV burden to learn from how Namibians are handling the situation,” Herero, who reminded the newly graduated counsellors that they can make a difference, said.
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