Statistics of the HIV/AIDS counselling and testing programme in the Omusati Region reveal that out of the over 200 000 inhabitants of the region, only 20 000 got tested during the six months from April to September 2015.
This came to light during the World AIDS Day commemoration at Oshiputu Combined School in the Anamulenge Constituency last week, which was held under the theme ‘Getting to Zero: Zero HIV-infection, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-related Deaths’.
According to the chief health programme officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Aina David, a large section of the population of Omusati refuses and or shows no interest in undertaking voluntary counselling and testing for the HIV/AIDS virus. The region has among the highest rates of HIV prevalence in the country. Four of its testing sites are among the top ten in terms of HIV-prevalence countrywide.
These sites are Okahao with 20.6 percent, Tsandi (20.2 percent), Oshikuku (18.6 percent) and Outapi with 11.4 percent HIV-prevalence rate. These sites are only surpassed by Katima Mulilo, which is the highest countrywide with 36 percent, followed by Rundu at 24.1 percent, Engela with 22.8 percent and Onandjokwe at 22.4 percent.
Out of the 20 000 people tested in the region, close to 9 000 people are first-time testers, while people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old make up 28 percent of that number. Over 900 people tested positive for HIV during the said period at the 48 sites that were doing rapid testing.
On his part Governor of the Omusati Region Erginus Endjala openly criticised community members, especially males, who refuse to take advantage of government’s free testing programmes and rather concentrate on drinking alcohol and indulging in unprotected sex.
Endjala encouraged residents of the region to know their HIV-status by getting tested and to do away with the advice of some charismatic churches and traditional healers that claim they can cure AIDS.
“You must know that only medicines, as prescribed by the professionals at hospitals, can better you in terms of your health and not traditional doctors,” he warned.
The governor also took a swipe at the recent escalation in murders and gender-based violence perpetrated by residents of the Omusati Region, noting that the time has come for the region to stand together to do something about the status quo.
He called on religious leaders in the region to organise a special prayer session so that residents can pray for peace in the region.
Omusati is reportedly one of the regions that experiences the highest number of murders and passion killings in the country, as evidenced by a recent incident whereby a resident of Tsandi settlement killed his own mother over her pension money.
* Lot Shikongo is an information officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in the Omusati Region.