WINDHOEK – Hundreds of people braved the scorching heat to take part in the annual commemoration of World Aids Day on Saturday, which took place in a marquee at Otjomuise Road informal soccer field.
The commemoration started with a procession from an open space between Mersey Street and Otjomuise Road to the soccer field, led by the City Police traffic unit.
In attendance were mostly young people form the informal settlements, community leaders, stakeholders and notably Reverend Emeritus Beukes.
“The theme of this year’s World HIV/AIDS Day dictates the critical need to strengthen efforts towards getting to zero,” stressed Windhoek City Councillor Fransina Kahungu, speaking on behalf of Windhoek Mayor Agnes Kafula. The theme this year is “Getting to zero new HIV infection, zero stigma and discrimination, zero AIDS related death.” World Aids Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 1.
Kahungu acknowledged the important role played by development partners, the UNDP and UNAIDS, in providing technical and financial support towards a study on strengthening urban response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Namibia, particularly to the City of Windhoek.
“I am proud to share with you that the findings of the study led to the successful development of the city’s first four-year evidence-based strategic plan and operational plan on HIV/AIDS, with technical and financial support from UNDP, UNAIDS, Pharm Access and SACEMA,” she announced.
Kahungu said it is important to mention that World Aids Day 2013 provides an opportunity for all levels of the government, including local authorities, to take action towards the realisation of the global vision of getting to zero.
“This is crucial since, in spite of the overall progress in the response to HIV/ AIDS, issues such as the protection of human rights, including protection from HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and key populations still require urgent attention,“ she said. She added that the significance of the commemoration of World AIDS Day cannot be overemphasised, “since our country features among the top five worst hit countries in the world”.
“HIV/AIDS has resulted in a significant increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in our country, resulting in child-headed homes,” she elaborated.
Kahungu said there is also no doubt that HIV/AIDS is associated with poverty and social vulnerability, and impacts negatively on socio- economic development.
“This in turn has negatively affected business and productivity of the national workforce,“ she said.
HIV/AIDS representative of the Namibia Football Association and ambassador of the “Protect the Goal” campaign, Evelyn !Noreses, said today’s society is complicated and it is thus not an easy task “to groom our sons and daughters”.
“Children need guidance and support as they grow in order to build their knowledge and confidence so that they fully understand the implications of their decisions,” she said, adding that a right choice or decision now is vital for the future and the ‘Protect the Goal’ campaign can help to emphasize the importance of self-protection in a language that can be understood by children.
By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa