A population-based HIV survey, which will generate detailed data on the HIV epidemic in Namibia, was launched yesterday.
The Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) survey will measure the impact of HIV programmes in the country and cover at least 12 000 randomly selected households countrywide.
The survey will start next month and continue for the next six months. Its results would be availed in 2018.
American ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, said at the launch that results from the sentinel and demographic health surveys show that at least 80 percent of people living with HIV in Namibia know their HIV status.
Also, between 75 and 80 percent of people living with HIV in Namibia are on antiretroviral treatment and 87 percent of people on treatment are virally suppressed.
However, there is a need for a population-based perspective to understand the full magnitude of what has not been done in fighting HIV/AIDS, said the ambassador.
“We still need more information because there are still things about the epidemic that we do not know and that we need to know. To put it simply, we need to know exactly how HIV is affecting Namibia at the level of individual Namibians,” said Daughton.
People living with HIV and people living without it can all play their part in helping Namibia reach epidemic control by agreeing to participate, if their household is selected, in the NAMPHIA survey, stressed Daughton.
“More than 26 000 people will have the opportunity to contribute to how the healthcare system designs targeted interventions to control the AIDS epidemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Bernard Haufiku, the Minister of Health and Social Services, explained that the NAMPHIA study is different from the sentinel survey in the sense that the latter screens very limited numbers of subjects, often with confines such as women of reproductive age.
The women tested are above 15 years and below 49 years while in the case of the NAMPHIA survey people below 15 years and above 49 years would be screened for HIV.
“The study will check for incidence of HIV, the prevalence of HIV and viral load levels at community level and it will inform policymakers and programme managers on how many people in different communities have been exposed to HIV services in Namibia,” explained the health minister.
He further said that people who will be gathering data for the survey should not see it as an employment creation scheme to make money.
“Its primary aim is to help us understand the HIV epidemic in Namibia for us to manage it better and contain the epidemic,” said Haufiku.
Namibia is the 13th country to implement a population-based survey. The World Health Organisation in 2005 recommended population-based studies. The survey will start next month and would last for six months.