By Alvine Kapitako
WINDHOEK – The government of the United States of America, through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) this year committed nearly N$1.2 billion (U.S $82 million) for HIV programmes in Namibia.
The recent announcement of this commitment, which commences in October this year, was made by the U.S Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson, who affirmed her government’s commitment towards Namibia’s HIV programmes.
Since the beginning of Pepfar in Namibia, the U.S. government has invested nearly U.S. $1.2 billion (N$17.8 billion) in HIV programming in Namibia. Pepfar was enacted on May 27, 2003, and began its work in Namibia in 2005.
“Our commitment remains unwavering. The U.S. government and the Namibian government have a strong partnership on HIV, and that is what has made this programme so successful,” Johnson said recently. She also said: “Pepfar will continue to use the latest data and science to direct resources where the burden of the HIV epidemic is largest, the need is the highest, and the dollars are most efficiently used. The HIV fight is for all of us. We need to continue to work together to assure the health of the Namibian people.”
Johnson also spoke about achievements made in the area of HIV.
“To emphasise the achievements from 2018, as many of you will remember, the Namphia (Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment) data showed that 86 percent of people with HIV aged 15-64 knew their HIV positive status, 96 percent of those who knew their HIV positive status were on treatment, and 91 percent of those on treatment were virally suppressed,” she remarked.
Namibia has continued in its successes, she said proudly.
“As of the beginning of 2019, estimates show 94 percent of adults with HIV know their HIV positive status, 96 percent of those who know their HIV-positive status are on treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment are suppressed. These results are a true testament to how hard Namibia has been working to reach epidemic control,” Johnson commented.
Epidemic control is limiting the annual number of new HIV infections in a country to less than the number of deaths among people living with HIV.
“If a person is HIV positive and takes their HIV medication daily, the virus in their body will become suppressed and undetectable. That means that they cannot transmit HIV on to others. And that is the key to epidemic control,” she said.
The Pepfar country coordinator Carey Spear also spoke about the U.S government’s commitment, citing critical data that would assist Namibia in addressing the HIV burden.
Spear noted that 12.6 percent of the adult population is living with HIV, 35.5 percent of people living with HIV have tuberculosis. By September 2019, it is estimated that 204 00 people living with HIV would be on antiretroviral treatment. “Nearly 4 000 Namibians will die from HIV in 2019,” she said, adding that HIV remains the number one cause of death in the country.
Spear further also explained that people living with HIV who take their antiretroviral medication daily, achieve, and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to their partners. This is an element of stopping HIV transmission, she added. “In stopping transmission of HIV, the annual number of new HIV infections will be limited. This is epidemic control,” Spear added.