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Prevention against new HIV variant vital

2022-02-17  Paheja Siririka

Prevention against new HIV variant vital

With the detection of a new HIV strain in The Netherlands, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula has urged Namibians to be cautious and to take extra care as a preventative measure.

Shangula shared this at the 40th Covid-19 briefing session when asked by this journalist whether the government already has strategies in place should the new strain be detected in the country.

“The same way it spreads is the exact same way the current strain is spreading. The same measures that are used to prevent getting infected with HIV will be the same ones that will be used to prevent this new strain,” said Shangula.

He added that government would continue to emphasise the measures to prevent and continue to educate and inform the public of any developments that may emanate from these outcomes.

“The old axiom says prevention is better than cure, and we believe in that principle. That is what we are urging the public to comply with,” observed Shangula.

The long-running HIV pandemic remains and seems to proceed on taking life every minute, with researchers and specifically scientists concerned about the development of new, more communicable variants of the virus. According to a press release from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the new highly virulent strain of HIV has been discovered in The Netherlands by researchers at Oxford University’s Big Data Institute. The outcomes of some research show that individuals infected with the new VB variant showed significant differences before treatment, compared with individuals infected with other HIV variants. The study also revealed that the variant has been circulating in The Netherlands for years, and remains receptive to HIV treatment.

UNAIDS said people living with the newly revealed HIV subtype experience double the rate of immune system decline (CD4 count), have higher HIV viral loads (amount of virus in the blood), and are vulnerable to developing AIDS two to three times faster after diagnosis than if they were living with other strains of the virus. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that HIV is the main cause of death in Namibia, followed by stroke and lower respiratory infection. CDC works with Namibia to develop and implement a sustainable and integrated, high-impact package of HIV prevention, care and treatment programmes.

The country has turned a new tide on HIV, and has made remarkable strides in control and prevention through partners and other stakeholders in reaching the goal of having an HIV-free nation.

“In 2021, Namibia reached UNAIDS’s HIV 90-90-90 targets of providing antiretroviral therapy to 90% of those diagnosed with HIV, and ensuring 90% of those treated achieve viral suppression by 2020,” stated the CDC.

HIV remains the deadliest pandemic of our time. An estimated 79 million people have become infected with the virus, for which there is still no vaccine and no cure. Some 36 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the pandemic, and 1.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2020. Of the 38 million people living with HIV today, 28 million are on life-saving antiretroviral therapy, keeping them alive and well, and preventing a transmission of the virus.


2022-02-17  Paheja Siririka

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