Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos has seemingly left a lasting impression on American actress Whoopi Goldberg, who after their recent meeting in New York suggested she wants to trade in the flashy Hollywood lifestyle and move to Namibia.
The main attraction for Goldberg – real name Caryn Elaine Johnson – is that Namibia is one of the countries to have reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV to a single percentage digit. Namibia incredibly managed to reduce mother to child transmission from 20 percent in 2001 to less than four percent in 2014.
Minister of Health and Social Services Bernard Haufiku, who led the Namibian delegation to New York, committed himself to reducing mother-to-child transmission from four percent to zero. The Namibian story captured the imagination of Goldberg, who consequently said – jokingly – that she would move to Namibia.
The Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winner was moderating a UNAIDS side event, titled ‘Delivering an AIDS-free Generation’ – on which Geingos was a panellist. The discussion was a side event to the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS held from June 8 to 10 in New York.
Geingos was also there to represent the Organisation of African First Ladies at various important side events. But it was during the dialogue on delivering an AIDS-free generation that the Namibian statistics on the killer epidemic – and Geingos’ articulation of her vision in this regard – captured the attention of Goldberg.
Goldberg, who starred in the highly acclaimed South African movie, Sarafina, made the remarks about Namibia on her Emmy award-winning American talk show, The View, which averages 2.7 million viewers per episode and focuses on a panel of female co-hosts, who discuss a variety of social and political issues.
Goldberg said: “I was at the UN yesterday and you know, I forget what a great job that they do. I just find them to be extraordinary and one of the things they’ve done is that they do this thing on Aids around the world. And I have to tell you, countries around the world have stepped up and they are moving to eradicate mother-to-child transmission.
“There are three countries in the world where it [transmission] is not happening at all and this is all because of the UN and their American partners and people saying: ‘We’re not taking this anymore’.
“And I have to tell you, I met the First Lady of Namibia. Honey, she was like ‘Look, this is what we have to do. We have to change the culture where we demean women and don’t think that women are important’,” Goldberg narrated.
“Because some of this transmission is tribal and cultural and is happening in ways that is rape. I was like ‘I’m moving to Namibia’. She is a woman who is taking care of business, it was amazing…”
In discussing Namibia’s progress in eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission, Geingos spoke of how Namibia managed to reduce HIV infections by over 50 percent since 2001 and scaled up treatment to 84 percent of eligible patients – one of the highest treatment rates in Africa.
She also spoke of the importance of leadership, how the issue of reducing infant and maternal mortality is part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and also a key performance indicator for the ministry of health.
The first lady touched on the need to educate and empower adolescent girls through quality education, comprehensive sexual education, access to family planning and HIV awareness that is sensitive to their needs, as well as protection from sexual predators.
She also spoke to the need to empower the youth in general, regardless of gender. “If religion, morals or traditions are not standing in the way of the spread of HIV, they should not stand in the way of HIV prevention and treatment,” she remarked.