United States Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton says over the next two to three years they are going to help the Ministry of Health expand efforts to identify HIV-positive people and put them on Antiretroviral treatment (ART) as part of an effort to get Namibia to the 1990 goal set by UNAIDS.
This will be done through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Daughton was speaking during his recent visit to Nkarapamwe Clinic in Rundu on Wednesday where he was taken on a tour of the facilities and briefed by the nurse in-charge, Sister Annastacia Siremo, about the challenges the clinic faces, as well as the progress made on PEPFAR-funded activities.
“I would like to say that I have some good news for you. We reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health just a couple of months ago, just before the end of last year, to begin a scale-up of identification of HIV-positive individuals who don’t know they are positive and also of people who have been lost to care to put them on antiretroviral treatment,” he said.
Daughton also praised the nurses and other staff at the clinic for their efforts.
“One of the things I wanted to say to the nurses and the other staff who work at the clinic here is that I have now visited probably close to a dozen clinics like this one around the country and I can only say that I have the greatest admiration for the work you are doing…
“Every time I come to a clinic like this and I see the sheer number of patients who come in every day and that you happily deal with hundreds of people every day. It’s remarkable work that you do,” Daughton said.
“I did want to tell you how thankful we are that you work as hard as you do. Without the nurses and other staff in these clinics certainly the efforts that we are making together with the Namibian government to fight the HIV-epidemic will not succeed,” the US Ambassador said.
According to Daughton, it is really impressive to see the facilities improved.
Part of the scale-up will include the upgrading and expansion of facilities, so that the nurses will have the space they need to do their work, while the other part will involve hiring new nurses, community counsellors and data clerks to fill the staffing gaps that exist.
“Because it is clear, as you say, that you don’t have a full-time pharmacist assistant here, so that is the kind of gap that we will be looking to fill.
“We’re going to identify the staffing and facility gaps where you don’t have enough people, where the building is not big enough or like some of the more distant rural clinics where there are rural clinics with no place for nurses to live,” he said.
“I don’t want to give you more work than you have without giving you more resources to deal with it. That is what we are going to be doing with the ministry, particularly in this part of the country.”
Daughton visited health facilities in the Zambezi and Kavango regions supported by PEPFAR.
He started his visit in Zambezi Region a week ago where he visited the Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) office in Katima Mulilo to he hand over baby hampers to HIV-positive mothers, celebrating their children that were born HIV-negative.
He concluded the tour by visiting various health centres and clinics at Rundu, where he also visited Rundu Intermediate Hospital and Nkarapamwe Clinic.
His aim was to familiarise himself with the work of nurses, experts, and field extension workers to gain first-hand experience of the impact of US-funded health projects at grassroots level.
PEPFAR is the largest commitment ever made by any single nation toward an international health initiative – a comprehensive approach to combating HIV/AIDS around the world.
In Namibia, PEPFAR is led by the US ambassador and programmed by an inter-agency management team that includes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and US Peace Corps, chaired by the PEPFAR coordinator.
Since 2004 PEPFAR has assisted the Namibian health sector with approximately US$1.1 billion (more than N$17 billion at the current exchange rate).