HIV crisis unfolding at Ongha

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Alvine Kapitako

Ongha-At least 472 people living with HIV defaulted on receiving treatment at the ART (antiretroviral therapy) clinic at Ongha Health Centre.

The figure makes up 10 percent of those who tested positive at the centre to the virus that causes AIDS.
In total 4,121 people are known to be living with the virus at Ongha.

These statistics provided by Helvi Edward, a registered nurse at Ongha Health Centre, are from last year.
Edward further provided statistics from January to July this year, indicating that 1,603 people were tested for HIV at the ART clinic, of whom 66 tested positive.

Furthermore, 108 infants were tested for HIV, of whom seven tested positive. There are 3,712 people receiving ART services at the clinic and 97 of these are new patients that were enrolled on ART, said Edward.
Edward pointed out that there are various reasons why people stop taking their treatment.

“Patients default on ART medication because of self-stigma, while some of our patients are foreigners and once they go back to Angola they do not come back for their treatment,” said Edward.

She said some people have relocated to other places without notifying the clinic of their move. The data keeping system at the clinic can show when patients have relocated to other towns, said Edward.

“But it’s not connected nationally for us to see if they are in Windhoek, for example,” said Edward.
Other reasons giving were financial, as patients often have to walk long distances to access their antiretroviral drugs. “Sometimes they don’t get transport to come to the facility,” said registered nurse Annalisa Haininga.

Also, some patients had died and their families did not notify the clinic of their death, added Haininga.
“Some of them joined new churches and at churches they are told that Jesus will heal them, they must not come for treatment, and when they come it is when it’s very late (sic),” said Haininga.

The Comprehensive Disease Clinic (CDC) at the Ongha Health Centre receives support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through PEPFAR, to provide holistic support for HIV patients, including through support for provision of a full-time medical officer at the health centre.

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