Following Up on Defaulters Results in Good TB Cure Rate

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By Surihe Gaomas Gobabis The Omaheke Region’s HIV/AIDS-Tuberculosis Programme, which has been hailed as a success because of the low HIV prevalence rate of 7.9 percent in the region, is now being extended to the Hardap Region. According to the latest 2006 National Sentinel Survey Among Pregnant Women, the Gobabis site scored among the lowest percentage of HIV-positive people. In light of this positive development, HIV/AIDS Regional Coordinator of the Omaheke Region, Reinhardt Kavendjii, said the region had come a long way from its previous HIV/AIDS ratio of 13,3 percent in 2004. He said people living with AIDS were more likely to contract Tuberculosis (TB) due to their weak immune systems. That was why the Omaheke Health Education Programme had vigorously targeted TB patients through the Directly Observed Treatment (DOT). “We follow up on people who have defaulted and, because of that, we have experienced a good TB cure rate in Omaheke. Many people saw these best practices under the Global Initiative through the Ministry of Health and Social Services,” said Kavendjii. He said more partners like non-governmental organizations within the communities were coming out in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the region. “People are now eager to go for HIV testing and counselling, because they want to know their status. So awareness has reached everybody. But there are still those who are ignorant and refuse to be tested for cultural and traditional beliefs,” said Kavendjii. One such false belief is that once an HIV-positive person drinks omaere (sour milk) he or she would be cured completely of the virus. Alcohol abuse, unemployment and poverty still continue to contribute to the rapid spread of HIV infection. Home Based Care programmes are also playing a leading role in treating people living positively with the virus with the help of nearly 150 volunteers. All 13 clinics in Omaheke have health promoters spearheading the HBC programme as implemented by Catholic AIDS Action and Advanced Community Healthcare Services (CoHeNa). CoHeNA is a newly-established non-governmental organization involved in the prevention of TB and HIV/AIDS through the Omaheke Health and Education Programme. The region has since experienced a dramatic decline in TB cases, with the 2006 sentinel survey results showing a decline of 7,9 percent last year from 13,3 percent in 2004 on the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the region. It is reported that the number of clients registered on the HBC programme rose from 184 in March 2006 to 217 clients so far this year. Through this initiative, the HIV-positive patients receive ongoing nutritional supplementary meals, counselling and referrals to the Gobabis State Hospital for Antiretroviral Therapy. Kavendjii said access to such treatment is hard to come by for the majority of rural people as clinics are few and far between.