WINDHOEK - Despite the advances made in the medical field, at least 269 persons died from HIV/AIDS in 2017 in Ohangwena Region, revealed the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku.
Haufiku made the revelation at this year’s World AIDS Day commemoration held in Ohangwena in Okongo district last Friday.
This year’s theme was “Know your Status: Empowering Girls and Young Women against HIV and Teenage Pregnancy”.
Haufiku said the theme reflects on the special focus the country places on reducing new HIV infections among girls and young women, teenage pregnancies, school dropout rates, sexual and gender-based violence as well as to empower girls and young women to be able to stand-up against GBV & early sexual debut.
He said the National Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS has a strategic focus to ensure that adolescent girls and young women who are not infected with HIV remains negative and that those diagnosed with HIV are linked to care and treatment. According to him, Ohangwena Region is the second highest populated region in the country as was shown in the 2011 census and also Ohangwena is one of the regions which are highly affected by HIV.
“The Namibia Population based HIV Impact Assessment (Namphia) preliminary report indicates that Ohangwena is the second highest in terms of HIV prevalence rate in the country,” he said.
Haufiku said HIV prevalence rate in Ohangwena stands at 17.9 percent, adding Namphia results indicated the HIV prevalence rate is high in girls (4.7 percent) compared to boys (2.7 percent) all in the age category of 15-19 years.
In terms of the annual deaths, he said Ohangwena recorded a total of 269 deaths in 2017 (RM&E Spectrum projection, 2018). Additionally, he said HIV prevalence rate is high in young women (six percent) compared to young men (2.3 percent) aged 20-24 years.
“Teenage pregnancy (ANC) Antenatal 1st visit clearly states that Ohangwena Region has a total of 3981 pregnant young women visiting clinics/hospitals for ANC, (as recorded by the District Health Information Statistic (2018),” he said. He said this data is indicating that women and girls are more vulnerable. As a result, he said this underscores the need to accelerate the provision of robust HIV testing services for adolescents and young people through targeted testing approaches.
Furthermore, Haufiku said in terms of VMMC, the number of male circumcised in Ohangwena is still low and standing at 435 per year.
“These statistics tells us that there is a need to reinforce HIV messaging in Ohangwena through behaviours change intervention especially among young people aged between 15 to 30 years,” he said. However, Haufiku said Namibia has indeed made significant strides in the fight against HIV as clearly shown by the Namphia preliminary results.
He said the data is indicating that women and girls are more vulnerable. “Today we have bypassed the second and third ninety targets of reaching 90, 90, 90 percent by 2020 and the third 90 is not so far,” he said.
“I would also like to specifically mention the fact that Ohangwena has achieved the highest viral load suppression rate in the country of over 95 percent,” he added.
He said this is a very commendable outcome which could not be realised if it was not for the able leadership of Governor Usko Nghaamwa and his team.
“Let me also caution that although there has been so much success in the reduction of new infections and AIDS related deaths, much still needs to be done until we reach the control of HIV epidemic and eventually end AIDS in Namibia,” he said. “There are many social issues which need to be addressed such as Gender Based Violence which is significantly increasing yearly. We need to reach boys and younger men with combined HIV preventative services as well as to reach all other Key Populations,” he noted.
Haufiku thanked Nghaamwa and his team for the excellent work they are doing.