WINDHOEK – The United States of America President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme in Namibia will provide US$73.6 million, equivalent to over N$1 billion, for HIV/AIDS programmes.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson yesterday revealed this at a media information session. She confirmed that the funding is for the upcoming annual funding cycle, starting this October.
PEPFAR supports Namibia in three strategic areas, namely the prevention of HIV transmission, care and treatment of people living with HIV and strengthening the public health system to effectively and sustainably respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Johnson said one part of the overall strategy is to ensure Namibians have access to accurate and timely health information.
“That’s why you, the media, play a very important role in this partnership,” Johnson informed journalists. She said PEPFAR Namibia remains committed to working with the Namibian government to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.
The UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals are to ensure 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status; that 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment; and that 90 percent of those on treatment achieve a suppressed viral load.
“The last 90 is the most important in terms of maintaining the health of infected individuals and stopping HIV transmission,” stressed Johnson.
Dr Eric Dziuban, the country director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also spoke at the media information session. He noted the last 90, which is about putting people on treatment and their maintaining a healthy viral load, is proving to be a challenge in the sense that the people who are willing to seek HIV services are already seeking these services. “Those who need the services are harder to find,” he said.
“It takes effort. Someone might be resistant or not have access to treatment. This is not specific to Namibia,” added Dziuban.
Data presented yesterday shows one in ten adults are infected with HIV in Namibia, which translates to 220,000 adults living with the virus.
Also, there are 25 new infections per day and 11 deaths related to HIV/AIDS per day.
Dr Abeje Zegeye, the Continuum of Care HIV/AIDS team leader at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said that since PEPFAR began its partnership with Namibia in 2004 the number of HIV-infected persons dipped from over 15,000 to under 8,000 per year.
Also since 2004 the percentage of HIV-positive babies born to HIV-infected mothers has reduced from 30 percent to below five percent, said Zegeye.
Last year, 21 PEPFAR-supported sites achieved zero HIV-positive babies born to HIV-positive mothers, Zegeye revealed.
Likewise, 1,917 people started on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which is treatment given to people who are HIV-negative but who are at substantial risk of contracting the virus.
These include people who are in serodiscordant relationships where one partner is HIV positive and the other negative.
Key populations such as female sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people are also eligible to PrEP because of the higher risk of contracting HIV.
Zegeye further highlighted that the number of people dying of HIV/AIDS in Namibia has more than halved from 10,000 to less than 4,000 per year.
PEPFAR supports 1,400 healthcare workers at more than 250 health facilities in eight priority regions and nine hotspots, said Zegeye. PEPFAR is the US government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. The programme is the largest commitment in history by any nation to address a single disease.