By Anna Shilongo
Members of parliament who recently attended a regional conference on HIV/AIDS policy commended Namibia for the strides it has made on HIV prevention.
African parliamentarians also applauded Namibia for its progressive HIV policy that does not discriminate against sufferers of the relatively incurable disease.
To date Namibia has made commendable progress on prevention, and is thus second in the region with relation to HIV testing at about 28.6%.
Notable progress has also been reported in the country with regard to prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT).
This was revealed during the SADC consultative forum for members of parliament, traditional leaders and civil society, which recently concluded in Swaziland.
The main aim of the forum was to strengthen the capacity of traditional leaders, MPs and civil society to effectively address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region.
The forum covered a wide range of topics such as male circumcision as a preventative measure, and relationships between statutory law and customary law.
It further covered parliamentary leadership and the struggle to strengthen accountability, orphans and vulnerable children in the region.
Member of Parliament Elia Kaiyamo who attended the forum as a delegate together with Elma Dienda and Chief Immanuel Gaseb were of the opinion Namibia could probably learn from countries such as Switzerland when it comes to taking care of HIV orphans.
The delegation was impressed with the way the country handles matters of OVC.
“In Switzerland there are no street kids roaming around – the country has created community centres, which ensures that OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) have access to shelter and protection from abuse, violence, exploitation, trafficking and loss of inheritance,” said Kaiyamo.
Another important lesson that Namibia can draw from Switzerland, when it comes to OVC could be in the form of food security.
In Swaziland, the Ministry of Agriculture facilitates the ploughing of communal and household fields for vulnerable children. The ministry also facilitates the establishment of community and households’ garden schemes for vulnerable children.
During the conference, it was also recommended that traditional leader structures be improved, by allocating enough budgets for their activities.
It is felt that this would enable them to coordinate and plan their HIV/AIDS activities effectively in their respective communities.
Traditional leaders were also encouraged to create good working relationships with civil organisations, as well as advise governments on suitable legislation to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Traditional leaders have to educate their communities of the danger of the pandemic.
There were also some lessons learned in comparison to Namibia when it comes to male circumcision, which is one of the effective tools to reduce the pandemic.
However circumcision is something new for some cultures in Namibia, said Member of Parliament Elma Dienda.
She said because of the fact that some people have different perspectives with the way circumcision is done culturally, she advises parents to take their children for circumcision when still babies.
“In this way babies are still small and it’s done professionally by the doctors. We as members of parliament will also carry the message across in all regions of the country,” said Dienda.
Despite the fact that circumcision is regarded as an effective method of preventing the risk of being infected with the virus, she also warned circumcised men not to take advantage of the process.
“This does not mean you should abstain from using the condom. You need to continue using it,” she stressed.
MPs have also realised that institutions tasked to distribute condoms in the country were not doing their utmost best to avail condoms in all corners of the country.
They said there is a need for constant check-ups. Asked on the issue of some communities who are still not aware of using condoms, Dienda said it was the responsibility of nurses to educate and explain to anybody who has no knowledge to use a condom.
Another issue that was discussed was the issue of condom sizes, but on this the members of parliament assured the gathering that the Chinese government was helping out the ministry with the smaller size condoms that were not available in the past.
Female MPs were also encouraged to go out into the rural community and sensitise women on how to use female condoms.
SADC members of parliament, traditional leaders and civil society attended the conference.