7 December 2012

Namibia: Ongwediva Marks World Aids Day

Ongwediva — Ongwediva joined other towns and cities in the country when it commemorated World AIDS Day last Friday with a march, prayers and a drama performance.

The commemoration was intended to highlight the seriousness of the killer pandemic for which there is no known cure.

Dressed in red T-shirts with a banner with the words: "We don't judge. We Care and Support. Zero Discrimination," participants marched through the streets to the offices of the town council where they were addressed by Ongwediva mayor Jason Asino and other senior municipal officials.

"We are all living with the disease and are affected by it in many ways. HIV/AIDS is still spreading in Namibia and Ongwediva is not an exception, and is mostly affecting the productive ages," Asino noted.

"We should therefore join the campaign to fight stigmatisation, and stop discriminating against and marginalising those who are infected and their families," Asino said.

"The eradication of the stigma around the disease will assist in encouraging people to disclose their status. It will also boost the prevention campaign and make it easier for the infected to seek treatment."

Ongwediva Town Council Chief Executive Officer Damian Egumbo said raising awareness about the dangers of HIV/AIDS at the workplace and the welfare of residents is a top priority of the Ongwediva Town Council.

According to Egumbo, the event was first commemorated in 2002 after the town participated in an HIV/AIDS Impact Assessment in the five municipalities of Ongwediva, Oshakati, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Windhoek.

The Social Impact Assessment and Policy Analysis Corporation (SIAPAC) conducted the assessment with support from Family Health International (FHI).

Egumbo said the outcome of the assessment was an eye opener to realize how critical HIV/AIDS is in the performance of municipal employees and the communities they serve.

"The immediate purpose of the study was to assess the current and projected impact of HIV/AIDS on the functioning of the municipal authorities, on municipal staff in terms of sick leave, deaths, training needs, etc., and the impact on the population of the municipality in terms of projected population growth, adult deaths, orphans, ability to pay for water and electricity," he said.

According to Egumbo, HIV and AIDS may hurt the town council's effectiveness in terms of service delivery and lead to higher levels of absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased financial costs, higher staff turnover, lower morale and declining levels of staff experience and quality.

The towns of Oshakati and Eenhana also commemorated their respective World Aids Day events with a myriad of events, ranging from marches to awareness raising and entertainment.

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed annually on December 1 to raise awareness about the spread of HIV/AIDS and its victims. On this day people across the globe unite to show their support for those living with HIV and honour those who have died. Currently, according to the World Health Organisation, 34 million people are living with HIV.

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