Around N$1.6 billion earmarked to support the national HIV/TB response this year – PEPFAR
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) this year will provide over N$1.6 billion in funding to support the national HIV/TB response, said United States Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong on his visit to Namibia from 17 to 20 June to celebrate 20 years of PEPFAR and 18 years of saving lives in Namibia.
During the visit, Nkengasong engaged with Namibian government officials and other partners leading the strategy to reach and sustain HIV epidemic control.
Acting U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson, Perry Stamp in a statement said that Nkengasong met with Deputy Prime Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah where they discussed health financing, HIV programming, and sustainably.
He congratulated Namibia on the remarkable progress towards reaching the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 95-95-95 targets and ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030.
In Namibia, 92% of people know their HIV status, 99% of people living with HIV are on treatment, and 94% of people living with HIV who are on treatment are virally suppressed meaning the virus is not detectable in their bodies.
Nkengasong said that Namibia is leading in innovative programs and approaches to reach and sustain control of the HIV epidemic and is an example to other countries in the region.
His first stop in Namibia was the Peace Corps-supported program, Grassroots Soccer (GRS), an adolescent health program that leverages the power of football to educate, inspire and mobilize youth to overcome their greatest health challenges, live healthier, more productive lives, and be agents for change in their communities. GRS trains coaches, teachers, and peer educators to deliver interactive life skills curricula to youth, providing them with the knowledge, skills, and support needed to live healthier lives and prevent HIV. Nkengasong called the group, the leaders of Namibia tomorrow.
When he visited the Katutura State Hospital, Nkengasong met with mothers living with HIV, their HIV-negative babies, and their treatment supporters from the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program. At the meeting, the mothers spoke about how the support provided to them is helping them to keep their children HIV-negative. One of the mothers said this support has given her life.
Nkengasong also visited the newly installed state-of-the-art Pelebox smart lockers at Katutura State Hospital, to learn how they operate and test the smart lockers for himself. Using Peleboxes eligible patients on chronic medications can discreetly access their medication refills in less than two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The Pelebox lockers are a great example of how countries can make it easier for people living with chronic diseases to stay on their medication, by making it more convenient to collect their prescription,” said Nkengasong.
He also engaged with the Namibian Adolescent Treatment Supporters (NATS), who are trained and mentored adolescents and young adults living with HIV who help support other young people living with HIV to stay on treatment. One of the NATS mentors said by helping to support their peers, they are also strengthening themselves. Nkengasong said the HIV epidemic will only be ended by the engagement and leadership of the youth.
At the end of the visit, Nkengasong hosted a PEPFAR 20th Anniversary celebration with key stakeholders who have been vital to the success of PEPFAR in the country. He congratulated Namibia on its progress to ending HIV as a public health treatment by 2030.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula expressed his appreciation for PEPFAR’s continued support in the fight against HIV.
“Our partnership has grown stronger and more robust over the last two decades. What started as an emergency project to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV has grown into a fully-fledged partnership with multiple successful and impactful programs. Over the years, the partnership with PEPFAR has transitioned from an emergency to a long-term response. Many lives were saved, and many people were given hope. We are now using what it looks like to have epidemic control,” concluded Shangula.
(l-r) PEPFAR Namibian Country Coordinator, Cherly Amoroso, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Jessica Long, Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Former Minister of Health and Social Services Dr. Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services Ben Nangombe and from Namibia Networks of AIDS Service Organisations, Sandi Tjaronda, who joined Ambassador Nkengasong for a cake cutting ceremony at the PEPFAR 20th Anniversary celebrations.