Former health minister Dr Richard Kamwi extolled the heroic role played by Professor Sir Richard Feachem for preventing Namibian babies being born with HIV that leads to Aids through the donor-funded Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT).
At the time babies and adults infected with the HIV virus where condemned to death as more than two-thirds of the total infected worldwide – some 35 million were Africans of whom 15 million died and the virus placed health sectors on the continent under tremendous financial burden.
It was during his tenure at the helm of the health ministry, reminisced the former political detainee, that he was introduced to Sir Feachem the eloquent, knighted British professor.
Kamwi was standing in at a breakfast meeting for the then president Hifikepunye Pohamba who took him along to the UN General Assembly where the late UN secretary general Koffi Annan introduced Professor Sir Feachem to the assembled heads of states as the founding Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Namibia alongside South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe were at the epicentre of the Aids global pandemic, which before the advent of the cocktail of antiretroviral therapy exacted a grim human toll on an unprecedented health scale that was numbing in sheer scale and the number of human lives that it claimed.
“Namibia was in the top five (of HIV infections), so when the late Koffi Annan came up with the idea of the Global Fund, they employed Professor Sir Feachem as the founder executive director of the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” recalled Kamwi during an exclusive interview recently at Farm Rimini, where he breeds cattle and farms maize.
“President Pohamba sent me to that breakfast meeting to stand in for him at the Millennium House in New York and he (Feachem) spoke so eloquently. As we were leaving, I ambushed him (laughs) with my business card and invited him to come to Namibia.”
At that time, despite Namibia being classified a high-income country, Kamwi made an impression that Feachem travelled to Namibia.
“Namibia has been a beneficiary of that Global Fund,” he said, resulting in many Namibian babies from HIV-positive mothers being born HIV-free and creating a new generation of babies without HIV.
“We already had 93% of HIV-positive women on antiretroviral and 97% of that number were already giving birth to HIV negative babies. We were only two countries Namibia and Botswana achieving that goal. That is why this country owes this to Sir Richard Feachem,” Kamwi added.
He elaborated due to the Global Fund, Namibia managed to reduce malaria deaths to a single digit from many thousands though this figure has increased but in the same vein, the former health minister praised the ministry of health for “doing extremely well,” to contain the HIV virus leading to Aids.
Through PMTCT women of reproductive age living with or at risk of HIV, maintain their health and are able to stop their infants from acquiring HIV. – firstname.lastname@example.org