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Namibia makes huge progress in HIV treatment

2019-09-05  Selma Ikela

Namibia makes huge progress in HIV treatment

WINDHOEK – Namibia has gone beyond achieving the HIV fast-track targets of UNAIDS by ensuring more than 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status and are on treatment while their viral load is suppressed.

Ministry of Health Executive Director Ben Nangombe recently shared the good news at the launch of the national antiretroviral treatment guidelines that according to the Namibia Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) conducted in 2017, showed Namibia has gone beyond the 90:90:90 UNAIDS fast-track targets. 

Nangombe said these targets are geared towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
He said Namibia’s HIV fast-track targets now stand at 94:96:95 percent.

Ministry of Health Medical officer for operation research and programme monitoring Dr Assegid Mengistu said out of 204 207 people estimated to be living with HIV, 191 954 (who represent 94 percent) know their HIV status.

He said out of those who know their status, nearly 184 276 who represent 96 percent are on treatment.
He added that out of those who are on treatment nearly 175 062 people, who represent 95 percent, have their viral load suppressed.

This means that a person with low or undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV.  Mengistu added that a person with low viral load’s quality of life also improves. 

“This means Namibia has achieved the 90:90:90 targets and it is on track for epidemic control. The targets are aimed at ending the epidemic by 2030,” noted Mengistu. 

Mengistu further explained that the targets were met after the ministry implemented test and treat for people living with HIV.

He said that if one goes back in time, the country only started HIV treatment in 2003 and from then it scaled up its treatment. 

“At the same time the country availed more safe and effective medicine for all people living with HIV.”
 Mengistu said the ministry ensured that people benefited from treatment. 
“There was a programme to ensure adherence to HIV treatment,” he said.

Mengistu said the ministry recently introduced a differentiate care module, meaning that health care providers are going into the community where people have challenges to access HIV treatment, and making sure treatment and care is availed.

Nangombe said the ministry has and will continue to invest resources to attain the strategic framework target of 95:95:95 by 2020 and to end AIDS by 2030. 

Nangombe said the ministry is striving to provide quality and affordable ART services to people and who are in need of these services. 

The ministry is continuously reviewing and updating the national ART guidelines as new scientific evidence and WHO guidance come up. Speaking off the cuff, Nangombe said there is a dichotomy that people may feel that the country is reaching the targets and become less careful.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We cannot say we have broken the backbone of HIV/AIDS therefore people should become less careful,” he cautioned. 

He advised people to continue living lifestyles where there are no new HIV infections. He said those on HIV treatment should continue taking their medication. 

“People must continue using condoms if they are sexually active and men must go for circumcision, for those that are not circumcised. The whole idea is to make sure the gains we have achieved so far are not rolled back.” 

The ministry announced last week it will introduce a more effective HIV medicine called dolutegravir, as from October. The drug has fewer side effects than alternative drugs that are currently used and has high genetic barrier to developing resistance.

2019-09-05  Selma Ikela

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