The Namibian (Windhoek)

22 November 2012

Namibia: New HIV Infections Drop in Namibia

THE rate of new HIV infections has dropped by 68% in Namibia over the last 11 years, according to a new Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS) report.

New infections among children also dropped by 24% over the last two years while the country has reached 80% coverage in HIV treatment.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Andrew Ndishishi, said although there was reason to be happy, there was still a need to redouble efforts in the campaign against new infections.

He said the government was doing its best to minimise the HIV infection rate even further while at the same time preventing mother-to-child infections as well as rolling out access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Efforts were also geared towards fighting opportunistic diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

"At least now someone who is infected with HIV can give birth to a child who is not infected with the virus," he said.

Other countries where the rates of new infections went down dramatically include 73% in Malawi, 71% in Botswana, 58% in Zambia, 50% in Zimbabwe and 41% in South Africa and Swaziland.

The report said countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59% in the last two years alone.

"The pace of progress is quickening – what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months," said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

"We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow-through we can reach our shared goals by 2015."

Burundi, Kenya and South Africa have also reduced new infections in children by 24% while in Togo and Zambia, the number of children newly infected with HIV fell by at least 40% between 2009 and 2011.

"It is becoming evident that achieving zero new HIV infections in children is possible," said Sidibé. "I am excited that far fewer babies are being born with HIV. We are moving from despair to hope."

The report also shows that countries are assuming shared responsibility by increasing domestic investments. More than 81 countries increased domestic investments by 50% between 2001 and 2011.

The new results come as the AIDS response is in a 1 000-day push to reach the Millennium Development Goals and the 2015 targets of the UN Political Declaration on HIV-AIDS.

Impressive gains were also made in reducing tuberculosis-related deaths in people living with HIV. In the last 24 months, a 13% decrease in TB-related AIDS deaths was observed. This accomplishment is due to record numbers of people with HIV/TB co-infection accessing antiretroviral treatment – a 45% increase. The report recognises the need to do more to reduce TB-related AIDS deaths.

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