By Anna Ingwafa
Hundreds of people flocked to the Oshakati State Hospital last week for pre-counselling and free HIV testing, heeding a nationwide appeal from the Ministry of Health.
Oshana Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa congratulated the Ministry of Health and Social Services for the initiative that made May 9 a National HIV Testing Day.
The governor who got tested on the same day told a large number of people that through the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Government has implemented some targeted programmes to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“As one of these programmes, voluntary counselling and testing are being implemented across the country including our region. These services are available at our hospital here in Oshakati and at our health centres and clinics. Our intention is to ensure that each and every health facility is able to provide these services,” said Kashuupulwa.
He told the big gathering that the HIV/Aids epidemic continues to haunt everyone worldwide and that Namibia is among the top five countries in the world that are the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Oshakati has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 27.1 percent among pregnant women, according to the 2006 sentinel surveillance .
Kashuupulwa explained that the impact of the epidemic on the social economic welfare of the population is enormous. “The family’s finances are being drained as they are being spent on health care needs of those that are infected. Family members who contribute to the family income and welfare are being incapacitated by Aids and the list goes on.”
At the regional level, according to Kashuupulwa, huge amounts of resources that could have been used on development projects of the region continue to be used on mitigating the impact of HIV and Aids on people.
“Our labour force is succumbing to HIV/Aids, thereby affecting production as many hours are lost due to recurrent illness. Severe loss of skilled and experienced personnel of our workforce continues to occur as a result of HIV/Aids,” the audience was informed.
Despite the effects of HIV/ AIDS, there is a denial by some individuals, families and communities that HIV/Aids is real and this requires appropriate behaviour change to prevent further spread of the virus.
Another reason that the governor cited is that not many people voluntarily seek to know their HIV status early so as to access care and support services that greatly reduce the negative impact of HIV/Aids. “Many only wait until they are very sick to be convinced of the need to know their HIV status, so that health workers can give them appropriate treatment. Recovery then takes time or is poor as the body will have become very weak.”
He appealed to couples to get counselled and tested together saying this helps provide much needed support for each other in times of need and collective efforts can be made to prevent the further spread of the virus.
“From today onwards, let us cultivate the culture of knowing our HIV status as well as encourage our family members to know theirs. Those who are negative should remain negative and those who test positive should be assisted. Let us be faithful to our sexual partners,” he stressed.