Villagers trek 70 km for HIV tests

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Health matters… HIV counselling and testing services in rural areas in Opuwo are not readily available. Photo for illustration purposes.

Windhoek

Otuani residents in the Opuwo Rural Constituency have to travel at least 70 kilometers to access HIV counselling and testing services in Opuwo.

Kazeongere Tjeundo, the councillor of that constituency, says the clinic at Otuani does not have HIV testing kits.
As a result, people have to travel to Opuwo if they want to get tested for HIV.

Tjeundo was quick to add though that people tend to travel to hospital only when they are sick.
Despite awareness of the disease, Tjeundo said most “people won’t travel 90 kilometres just to get tested for HIV when they are not sick.”

Tjeundo said the effect is that people can infect others with the virus that causes AIDS without even knowing they are HIV-positive.

“Not all of us will stand up to go and get tested. It will not happen.”

“The consequence is that one will never know their status (until it is too late) and, therefore, will not make the necessary changes to prolong life,” Tjeundo explained.

Furthermore, he said there was a World AIDS Day commemoration late last year that offered an opportunity for people to be tested for HIV.

“But we requested that testing be accommodated at Otuani clinic,” he said, which currently provides antiretroviral drugs to HIV positive people in Otuani, he revealed.

“According to the nurses at the clinic, there are 12 people who are on antiretroviral treatment at Otuani. And, out of these only three are adhering to their medication.
The others come as they want.

“We don’t know if they go to other health facilities for the medication, but that is the challenge at the moment,” said Tjeundo.

Efforts by New Era to obtain comment and clarity from the Kunene health directorate proved futile by the time of going to print.

However, information on the website of the Ministry of Health and Social Services indicates that there are adequate testing facilities around the country.

“Hence Namibians do not have excuses anymore for not testing,” reads an extract from an article on the health ministry’s website.

The 2016 National HIV Sentinel Survey shows that Opuwo has the lowest HIV prevalence in Namibia at 5,2 percent, compared to the national prevalence rate of 17, 2 percent.

Nampa, quoting the 2016 National HIV Sentinel Survey, reported in December last year that people living with HIV in the region face major challenges, such as having to travel long distances to access health facilities or obtain their medication, which they sometimes miss out on as they often do not have money for transport.

Stigma remains another big problem, which sees people with the virus discriminated against, while adhering to medication is made increasingly difficult by the fact that many people suffer from hunger in the region, which has been heavily affected by the lingering drought.

There is also a shortage of trained staff to provide voluntary counselling.
In a speech delivered on her behalf, Kunene Governor Angelika Muharukua said HIV/Aids negatively impacts the national economy, amongst others, due to increased absenteeism from work and school, loss of skills and loss of income.

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