President Hage Geingob yesterday bemoaned the lack of private sector funding support for the fight against HIV, saying the current one percent contribution is a mere drop in the ocean.
“I would like to take this opportunity to engage the private sector on the need to join us on the frontlines of this battle, as HIV affects each and every one of us, either directly or indirectly,” Geingob said yesterday.
He made the remarks during the official launch of the Global Annual World Aids Day report for 2016 held in Windhoek.
While Namibia is proud of the achievements it has made in collaboration with partners like Global Fund and PEPFAR, Geingob said Namibia’s HIV response is by and large funded by domestic resources.
“It is important for us to take ownership for treatment and care, while allowing partners to walk this difficult journey alongside us,” the head of state said.
President Geingob further said his declared war on poverty would be meaningless if no shots are fired in the direction of the AIDS pandemic. “Our efforts to tackle HIV are part of the multi-faceted approach to the war on poverty.”
“Our determination to eradicate poverty is closely linked to our ambition of ending AIDS as a public health threat in Namibia within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, our own Vision 2030, National Development Plan and the Harambee Prosperity Plan.”
“We must always be mindful that socio-economic issues, such as inequality and gender-based violence, manifest themselves in our HIV statistics, hence our focus on taking a holistic view when addressing HIV as it does not occur in a vacuum to societal realities.”
Speaking at the same occasion, executive director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Michel Sidibé urged Geingob to push for the local production of medicines in Namibia and on the African continent in general.
Sidibé revealed that only two percent of HIV/AIDS medicine is produced on the African continent. He told Geingob to push for the local production of quality medicine, stressing there should be a continental vision in terms of producing medicines in Africa.
This, he added, should not only be medicine for HIV/AIDS-related ailments, but all sorts of pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, Sidibé noted that Namibia is doing well in the fight against HIV/AIDS, hence the choice to launch the 2016 report here. “You’re amongst the best in the world today,” Sidibé said.
He added that 96 percent of HIV positive pregnant women are on antiretroviral treatment. “I want many countries to achieve that. I want to see the new generation born without HIV,” Sidibé added.
He also acknowledged the fact that Namibia has the political will to combat HIV/AIDS, with a huge share of national resources (67 percent by some estimates) dedicated towards the HIV/AIDS fight. “That is a sign of true commitment,” he added.
Next year, the Namibian government wants to dedicate 30 percent of its HIV/AIDS budget to prevention, a move highly commended by Sidibé.
“Your choice to launch the report in Namibia makes us feel special,” said Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku. He noted that HIV is being passed on from one person to another everywhere in Namibia.
In Namibia there are about 220 000 HIV positive people. Of those, about 150 000 (68 percent) are on treatment. In addition, importantly 98 percent of babies born to HIV positive mothers are born without the disease.
Sidibé also noted that although the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child has been successful at birth, almost 50 percent of children living with HIV have been infected during the breastfeeding period.
“It’s important to understand what really happens there and the report is helping is to understand that,” said Sidibé.
The report contains detailed data on the complexities of HIV and reveals that girls’ transition to womanhood can be a very dangerous time for them, particularly in the sub-Saharan context.
“Young women are facing a triple threat. They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women and we urgently need to do more,” said Sidibé.
Participants in the meeting yesterday noted though that the political commitment and leadership offered by Namibia in the fight against HIV has contributed immensely to the successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.