Progress achieved in HIV fight after two decades being eroded – Minister
6,000 new HIV infections and 3,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS are recorded each year despite the gains the country achieved in the past two decades, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula said Thursday.
Speaking at a media briefing in Windhoek, Shangula said intensive campaigns about HIV prevention have reduced over time, and some people have become complacent about behaviors that can spread HIV, such as having multiple sexual partners and having unprotected sex which has led to a reduction in the use of simple, effective prevention measures such as using a condom.
“Without critical HIV prevention and control measures, the epidemic could spiral out of control. More than 13% of adults are HIV-positive. This translates into 219,000 people living with HIV in the country. Most people living with HIV who are taking their medication correctly every day, are stable, and will live long healthy lives,” Shangula said.
All of this means that the gains of the past two decades are fragile, and the number of new cases of HIV could increase rapidly if we fail to continue to do what is necessary to prevent and control the spread of HIV, he added.
“Approximately 33,000 people living with HIV either do not know their status or do not have the virus under control. This means that they may transmit the infection to sexual partners. HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can pass the virus to their children,” he said.
Shangula said finding people living with HIV who do not know their status is critical so that when found, they are to be linked to treatment which will improve their health and prevent them from transmitting the virus unknowingly to others.
Meanwhile, Shangula said notable progress has been achieved in the fight adding that this was possible through a combination of interventions, including awareness creation, prevention, and initiation of treatment.
The number of annual deaths among people living with HIV in Namibia has more than halved, while the rate of new HIV infections is almost four times lower and the number of new infections among children under the age of 1 year has decreased by over 90%.