Namibia close to controlling HIV epidemic

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Alvine Kapitako

WINDHOEK – Namibia is one of 13 countries close to achieving HIV epidemic control.
The Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) survey results to be released soon will give a clearer picture on how close the country is to that target.

Epidemic control is considered when there are more people dying of AIDS related deaths, compared to the number of people who are being infected with HIV.

Other countries that are nearing epidemic control are Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Haiti, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Uganda.
Current statistics indicate Namibia has about 25 new HIV infections per day and 11 deaths related to HIV/AIDS per day.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Dr Eric Dziuban, the Country Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the current data on HIV/AIDS is “a little bit older”.

Dziuban said the NAMPHIA results will be released in the coming months by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. The results, he added will provide accurate and updated data on the numbers of people living with HIV in Namibia, the treatment and other figures.

The NAMPHIA survey was made possible with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The survey conducted last year assessed the impact of HIV programmes in Namibia and evaluated the treatment response that has been implemented.

“It would be exciting to really see our most recent numbers released by the Ministry of Health soon. It’s going to be our best indication on where exactly the HIV epidemic stands now in Namibia,” said Dziuban.
However, current statistics indicate that Namibia’s HIV prevalence rate is at 13.8 percent. In the SADC region, Zambia’s prevalence rate is at 12.4 percent, Botswana is at 21.9 percent, South Africa is at 18.9 percent and Angola is at 1.9 percent.

But despite Angola’s low prevalence rate, Dziuban explained the challenges of the health system still poses problems in its fight against the disease.

“So without good coverage of treatment even countries with low prevalence and incidence rates could be experiencing severe challenges in terms of the quality of life and the length of life of people living with HIV,” said Dziuban.
Further, he also cited the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals which means to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status and 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.

Dziuban also highlighted there are 230 000 people living with HIV in Namibia. Out of these, 87 percent know their HIV status and out of those who know their status, 81 percent are on treatment while 70 percent of those who are on treatment are virally suppressed (when the HIV virus cannot be detected).

“A patient who is virally suppressed has every chance of living a healthy life and a greatly reduced risk of transmitting the disease,” added Dziuban.

US Ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson said at the same event that the last 90 goal on achieving a suppressed viral load is the most important in terms of maintaining the health of infected individuals and in stopping HIV transmission.

Dziuban also made reference to Tanzania, saying a shocking 48 percent of people living with HIV in that country do not know their HIV status.

“If you don’t know your HIV status none of the other steps for protecting your health and preventing transmission of HIV can occur. So that’s a big challenge there,” Dziuban explained.
Swaziland is also close to reaching epidemic control.

“Swaziland has a smaller population compared to Tanzania and Namibia but their HIV prevalence is extremely high. It’s the highest in the world. They’re close to where Namibia is in terms of getting to 90-90-90 goals to making sure that they have a controlled epidemic,” said Dziuban.

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