17 December 2012

Namibia: HIV Status Remains Unchanged

Social welfare counsellor Kaarina Shimbu says the way HIV/AIDS is passed from one person to another person is still the same, therefore people should not stop protecting themselves against the virus.

While addressing a group of police officers at the Oshana Police Regional Headquarters last week, she said people should not stop the fight against HIV/AIDS just because there are antiretrovirals (ARVs) since HIV still infects people the same way and nothing has changed.

Shimbu was among the team of Ministry of Health and Social Services employees conducting a campaign to encourage police officers to get tested for HIV.

The team of counsellors, nurses and other health workers were based at the Oshakati Police Regional Headquarters from Wednesday to Friday, sharing information, and counselling and testing police officers, as well as members of the community who were keen to be tested.

Among the questions raised was the issue of post-exposure to HIV and it emerged that hospitals and private doctors are now offering post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) drugs.

"All I know is that state hospitals help rape victims. I'm however not here to talk for private doctors because I don't know how they deal with PEP. However, even if they were offered at state hospitals or private doctors, you must keep in mind that medicine can be very dangerous, and if you abuse it the side-effects can be very dangerous. The best we can do is to prevent getting infected," said Shimbu.

Shimbu also urged people on antiretroviral treatment to stick to their schedules and to adhere to the rules and conditions of the treatment in order to avoid resistance.

According to her, there are only two lines of ARV medication. People that have become resistant to the first line are usually changed to the second line of medication. However, if they become resistant to the second line of treatment such people can no longer get help.

"It is difficult for me as a counsellor to face someone and tell them to go home because there is nothing that can be done for them.

But unfortunately if doctors realise that someone has become resistant to the treatment, they refer them to us (counsellors) so that we can talk to them," said Shimbu.

Shimbu also raised her concern over churches that provide misleading information about HIV/AIDS and at times carry out activities that interfere with ARV treatment.

Shimbu alleged that there are churches that make their members, who are on ARVs, fast for even up to a week. Some churches, she said, also order their members to stop taking ARVs since they would 'be healed by the holy spirit'.

"We live in a democratic country, we cannot stop such churches from doing what they want to do. But we should just keep in mind that a number of pastors that own such kinds of churches are foreigners. And it is easy to deceive people and make money in the name of Jesus," she said.

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