Windhoek — The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Richard Kamwi says HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) remains major public health challenges threatening social and economic development efforts.
He noted that the trend remains the same for all SADC member states. "Although progress has been made to date, several challenges still persist," noted Kamwi. According to the National Sentinel Survey report of 2010, HIV prevalence among pregnant women attending antenatal care in Namibia was down to 18.8 percent compared to 22 percent, the highest peak during 2002.
Speaking during the Voluntary Services Overseas-Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa (VSO-RAISA) care givers conference held recently in the capital, he acknowledged that Namibia had received tremendous support since independence in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
VSO-RAISA is the world's leading international development organisation in Africa, where HIV and AIDS are widespread and have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of people, and its work supporting children has become a strong feature. By the end of 2007, 15 million children had been orphaned by HIV and AIDS worldwide (source: UNAIDS). Children as young as 10 years old are often left to care for younger siblings or must become the family's main income earners, missing out on the chance to go to school and to learn skills that will help them build a successful and healthy future.
VSO-RAISA offers these children support and therapy to address the impact of HIV and AIDS on their lives, and volunteers are working with agencies that run community schools (non-formal education) to ensure these children who work or have to care for other members of their family are still able to get an education.
"Government efforts had persistently been supported by our most valued development partners, the United Nations agencies and during 2003 the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund came on board. But I want to say, we have had some unsung heroes and heroines in our fight against HIV and AIDS," said the health minister.
Among them, the VSO volunteers who are part of a regional AIDS programme called the VSO-RAISA. He said VSO volunteers played and continue to play a vital role, both in the health and education sectors. New Era learned that some of these VSO volunteers have since taken full time jobs with some line ministries.
VSO-RAISA is active in Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. The programme seeks to strengthen the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa by joining forces with government institutions and civil society organisations to provide effective prevention, treatment, care and advocacy support for people affected by HIV and AIDS, and to mitigate the personal, social and economic impact of the pandemic.