By Charles Tjatindi
No official celebrations of World AIDS Day on Saturday were observed in the Erongo Region this year, as celebrations were postponed to next weekend.
In a letter to concerned parties, the Erongo Regional Council noted that the event has been postponed to next weekend due to “other commitments for national leaders”.
An official in the Erongo Regional Council confirmed that the event had to be postponed to the weekend of December 08 to allow the regional governor and other national leaders who were away in Windhoek for the Swapo Party Congress to be present.
This did however not deter other activities that were planned for the region. In Walvis Bay, the community reflected on the day by going for voluntary couple testing for HIV. The initiative, which was facilitated by the Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Resource Centre (WBMPRC), was aimed at encouraging testing among partners in a relationship in a bid to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Part of the initiative also involved the voluntary testing for HIV of management and leaders of various companies, sectors and industries on the day.
In a region where HIV/AIDS has taken its toll on the community, the WBMPRC hopes to reduce the stigma and discrimination that is usually experienced by those living with HIV by encouraging the captains of industry to lead by example through voluntary HIV testing.
When the centre opened its doors for the exercise on Saturday, couples were already lining up waiting to get tested. While many preferred to retain confidentiality, those New Era spoke to said that they decided to come for voluntary counselling and testing as a means of finding out their HIV status so as to make the necessary adjustments in their lives based on the results.
“I need to know what my future holds for me. Once you know your status, you will be in a position to better protect yourself from HIV. If the result shows you are positive, you would be able to adjust to a healthy lifestyle.
If it is negative, you can also further protect yourself,” noted Naatye Nashongo from Kuisebmund who came for testing at the centre.
Another resident who came for testing, Polli Andima, encouraged others to follow suit and get tested as knowing one’s status makes HIV prevention easier.
“People should come for testing. It is free and very beneficial. Those who are getting tested today should also remember to go for regular testing afterwards, as it is the only way to make sure that you are safe from HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Olivia Namukomba, the Director of the Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Centre, noted that although statistics indicate a slow reduction in infection rates at the town, a lot still needs to be done to get everyone on the same level of understanding on issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS.
“Everyone is at risk of HIV/AIDS, and we are all affected by it in one way or another. The community is responding, but at a very slow pace. That is why it is important to encourage as many young people to become active mobilizers within their own communities and disseminate vital information on HIV/AIDS,” she said.
Joey Heita, who as Regional Coordinator for the NawaLife Trust is in charge of assisting his Community Action Forum (CAF), firmly believes that the fight against the pandemic can only be overcome through concerted efforts.
The CAF is a group of young people disseminating prevention and safe sex messages on HIV in their own communities.
“It would be good if the various stakeholders such as the town council, private sector and the general public could come together and work out a system that is workable for all. In this way, everyone will be on an equal footing concerning HIV/AIDS,” he noted.