2 July 2013

Namibia: Another Back-Pat for HIV Fight

Photo: Edward Echwalu/IRIN
Surgical circumcision is more complex than PrePex

Windhoek — Namibia received another citation for her good progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, this time from the US White House during the visit of US president Barack Obama to Africa.

The White House Fact Sheet, released on June 30, on the 'Global Health Investments and Partnership in Africa' singles out Namibia as "amongst eleven African countries that have reached a critical programmatic 'tipping point' where the annual increase in adults on HIV/AIDS treatment is bigger than the annual number of new adult infections".

The other countries are Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The fact sheet was issued while Obama was still in South Africa. Obama arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday afternoon after a two-day stop in South Africa, in Pretoria and Cape Town.

Giving the 'progress towards an AIDS-Free Generation' the Fact Sheet notes that the United States is committed to turning the tide on HIV/AIDS, saying: "In June 2013, we reached the one millionth baby born HIV-free because of the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) support."

In the 2012 financial year alone, PEPFAR's investments meant that over 230 000 babies were born HIV-free. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of AIDS-related deaths decreased by 32 percent from 2005 to 2011, and the number of new HIV infections fell by 33 percent from 2001 to 2011.

"During this same period, PEPFAR also supported over one million voluntary medical male circumcisions, and provided HIV testing and counseling for more than 46 million people. Today [June 30], we are announcing an additional $10 million (nearly N$100 million) to support South Africa's ongoing efforts to expand voluntary medical male circumcision services, which reduces men's risk of becoming infected with HIV by approximately 60 percent. We are delivering on the President's 2011 commitment to support 6 million people on antiretroviral treatment (ART) by the end of 2013, and are working to increase the impact and sustainability of our investments," the statement said. The number of people in Africa receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased from less than 1 million in 2005 to 7.1 million in 2012, with nearly 1 million added in the last year alone. PEPFAR directly supports more than 5.1 million people with lifesaving ART, up from 1.7 million in 2008.

The statement says South Africa, for example, is rapidly scaling up access to HIV treatment, with a 20 percent increase in the number of people receiving therapy from 2011-2012 alone. Sixteen countries - Botswana, Ghana, Gambia, Gabon, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - now ensure that more than three-quarters of pregnant women living with HIV receive antiretroviral medicine to prevent transmission to their child.

Already statistics from the Namibian National HIV Sentinel Survey of 2012 indicate that the HIV overall HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women attending antenatal care was 18.2 percent.

The latest commendation for Namibia is hot on the heels of another commendation by the UNAIDS progress report that ranked Namibia as one of only seven countries - out of the total 22 sub-Saharan countries - that made "a marked increase in progress in stopping new infections in children", as part of the UN Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015.

The UNAIDS 2013 progress report, released last week, shows that for Namibia in 2009 the HIV transmission rate from mother to child including breastfeeding was 19 percent and it has decreased every year since, making it nine percent in 2012. Also, 94 percent of pregnant women are reportedly receiving HIV treatment, the report said.

The White House fact sheets says PEPFAR efforts "have contributed to a 16 percent decline in under-five child mortality in 24 priority countries and we have been a key multilateral partner on strengthening the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and the Global Alliance for vaccines and immunization."

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