By Charles Tjatindi
An estimated 150 000 to 180 000 people in Namibia are HIV positive. Added to this figure is an increase in the prevalence rate among pregnant women across the country, which now stands at 19.9 percent as per the 2006 estimate, up from 4.2 percent recorded in 1992.
This was revealed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Kahijoro Kahuure, when officiating at the launch of the HIV/AIDS Communication for Behavioural Impact, COMBI, at Otjiwarongo recently.
COMBI was commissioned by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, in 2006 as part of its country programme with the Government.
The main focus of the campaign under the brand “Coool Behaviour”, an acronym for various behaviours that promote safe sex such as using a condom, is protection from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to staying safe from HIV infections.
The PS noted that the current prevalence rate is worrisome, as it leads to many children being orphaned by AIDS.
According to the 2001 population census, AIDS orphans are estimated at 156 165 children, said Kahuure.
He noted that it is projected that by the year 2021, 10 percent of the Namibian population could be orphaned, placing a heavy challenge on the country’s mid-decade goals – the NDP2 and Vision 2030.
“The HIV/AIDS situation has tremendously impacted our society both in terms of social, cultural and economic development. One such example is that HIV/AIDS continues to impact on human resources. Absenteeism due to illness affects the productivity and economy of the country.”
The newly launched campaign also focuses on influencing and enabling individuals to apply their knowledge and awareness to behaviour, by mainly increasing the number of men using condoms every time they have sex. The campaign will be rolled out through door-to-door visits by volunteers called lifestyle ambassadors, dissemination of information material, community meetings and road shows, among others.
The media will also play an instrumental role in the rollout of the campaign, through radio and TV spots, and the placement of advertisements in newspapers.
A card game called “Take a Chance” depicts to the players their chances of getting infected with HIV when having unprotected sex.
Kahuure called on all men involved in risky sexual behaviour to abstain from such practices and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“I urge all men between the ages of 15 to 39 to change your behaviour towards sexual intercourse in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Please use a condom every time, every time, every time.”
The launch was attended by representatives from various community and faith-based organisations and NGOs.