HIV/AIDS stunts agricultural growth, productivity – Kasheeta

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Windhoek

HIV/Aids has had an impact on morals, productivity and skills transfer within the agriculture, water and forestry sector, says the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Sophia Kasheeta.
Speaking during a World Aids Day commemoration event organised by the ministry on Monday, Kasheeta said they are experiencing different impacts at various levels, such as young people dying and positions having to be frozen because of the time it takes to find replacements, while the workloads of other staff members tend to increase.

Kasheeta said due to the high rate of unemployment, the loss of breadwinners in many households has resulted in the rupture of family cohesion. “With the death of young people the transfer of knowledge between generations has been interrupted and, in the case of older people, expertise lost.

“Family structures are destroyed. More children are orphaned and child-headed households are also increasing. Absenteeism is experienced in workplaces, as people are either ill, attending to the sick at home, or attending funerals,” she lamented.
However, she feels positive attitudes and motivation are key elements in mounting a successful response to HIV/Aids. “It is important to give the agriculture, water and forestry sector stakeholders the opportunity to learn more about the virus and how to prevent themselves from being infected and also how to live a healthy and positive life, if they are infected.

“It is important to know your HIV-status in order to make informed decisions. We need to be aware of the risks of HIV-infection and find ways to further reduce these risks in our workplace, as employees and on behalf of the communities we work with.”
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group and Vulila Wellness Centre had an information stand at the commemorative event, where they offered cholesterol and glucose screening, hypertension tests, HIV-testing and counselling, as well as therapeutic massages, among other services.

Kasheeta emphasised that preventing the spread of HIV is important to everyone as prevention is currently the only way to tackle HIV. There is no known cure. There are around 244 032 people recorded as living with HIV in Namibia, as per 2015/2016 estimates provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Of these, about 143 890 males and females, aged 15 years and above, currently receive ARV treatment at State facilities. Official health statistics show that there are 48 444 males, aged 15 and above on ARV treatment, while 85 158 females are on treatment. The estimated number of new HIV infections for 2015/2016 is 8 494.

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