Namibia has made remarkable progress that could make it one of the few countries to achieve the ‘95-95-95’ global HIV target.
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the country is close to achieving all UNAIDS fast-tracked target by 2030, with Namibia now standing at ’95-90-91’.
This means that 95% of people living with HIV in Namibia know their status, that 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment and that 91% of people on treatment have suppressed viral load.
The minister was speaking during the commemoration of the World Aids Day yesterday in Windhoek.
“These sets of targets were achieved because of the robust strategies and programmes that the government and our development cooperation partners such as PEPFAR, Global Fund, UN Agencies, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations have put in place and implemented,” he stated.
The minister has also shared some of the successes include reduced new infection rates in new-born babies to below 2% according to recent data.
He said that new infections among adults (aged 15–49) have been reduced significantly. Also, the death rate among adults has been reduced by about 60%.
“There were 10 200 deaths in 2003, compared to about 3 000 deaths in 2020 due to AIDS-related causes. HIV prevention services, including Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC), Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PreP), DREAMS which targets adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), as well as other preventive services such as Cervical Cancer Screening Programme have been strengthened,” said Shangula. The minister further explained that another milestone was reached in October 2019, when Namibia adjusted the regimen and migrated to TLD as part of the first-line treatment for HIV infection. TLD is a single tablet containing three drugs, namely Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Delutogravir. He said the use of a single tablet is significant as it has drastically reduced the pill burden for those on treatment. Moreover, it ultimately improves adherence and viral suppression among our clients, he said, “Equally important, the introduction of multi-month dispensing (MMD) of ARVs is another important initiative to strengthen our interventions and compliance,” Shangula said. The health minister maintained that although significant reductions in new infections and AIDS-related deaths have been recorded, especially in those regions that have been classified as hardest hit, funding for HIV/AIDS programmes continues to decline. “For this reason, Namibia has adopted the ‘investment’ approach to address HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. As part of this approach, priority is placed on investing in high-impact interventions, reviewing, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery, and integrating and mainstreaming HIV services into broader healthcare programmes. Implementation of these initiatives requires continued resource mobilisation,” he said. Shangula added Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Health and Social Services to develop a strategy to increase domestic resources to ensure that the gains made over the years are not eroded. The representative of the Civil Society Organisation, Zack Makari, urged Namibians to fight stigma and discrimination and focus on providing care and support for those who are already living with HIV.