Windhoek — Young people, as well as key populations that includes men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers who are HIV positive, will face less stigma and discrimination with the latest introduction of antiretroviral (ARV) services at the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) clinic at Okuryangava in Windhoek.
As from July 1 the clinic will roll out ARV services and the target market is young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years, as well as key populations. Key populations include those at higher risk of contracting HIV compared to the general population.
A nursing consultant, who is attached to NAPPA clinic in Okuryangava, Sister Agatha Kuthedze said the roll-out of ARV services was necessitated by the fact that young people were tested at the clinic for HIV and those who tested positive were referred to health facilities for ARV services.
It would be easier if the young people and key populations receive the services at the clinic, "so that they can open up," Kuthedze said.
Clinical assistant at the NAPPA clinic Lydia Kamati said with the roll-out of ARV services at the clinic young people would be able to get their medication without fear of bumping into an older relative. This means young people who are HIV positive can access improved treatment, Kamati added.
"It means better access to prevention (PrEP) for those who are negative, but at risk of infection. It also means less discrimination for young people and key populations, and it also means that they will not sit long in queues in order to get their ARVs," Kamati explained.
PrEP refers to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis; anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected.
The health professionals at NAPPA are well trained to understand young people as well as the key populations. "I would like to encourage our young people to make use of the clinic," Kamati added.
NAPPA staff will this week undergo training to equip them for the roll-out of the new ARV services. Dr Simon Agolory, country director for the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said at a press briefing last month that people in the 20 to 40 age group are most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
In particular, it ewas found that young men in the 20-24 age group are not keen on testing for HIV, while women in that age group are equally at risk of the virus since they are most likely to engage in relationships with older men.
"It will be very difficult to control the epidemic at the 25-40 age group, because they are not easily identifiable, yet treatment (at this stage) is an effective way of preventing HIV," said Agolory.
Agolory added that people in this age group tend to shy away from getting tested for HIV and those who are HIV positive do not go on treatment and thus spread the virus willingly and unwillingly.
The chances of spreading the virus while on antiretroviral treatment are vastly reduced, even in cases where condoms are not used, Agolory noted.
Access to contraceptives
A young person said during a youth-sharing information dialogue organised by NAPPA that young people are often discriminated against by older nurses when they go to health facilities to access contraceptives.
"As long as we put information out without consulting the young people it will be a waste of resources," said Forbes, who told the youth that young people are often not consulted on health issues that concern them.
NAPPA is registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Services as a welfare organisation and is a member association of the international Planned Parenthood federation (IPPF).
NAPPA's main responsibility is to work with young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old in complementing the government's efforts to provide comprehensive sexual reproductive health information and services.
The services offered at NAPPA include information on health education, pap smear screening, pregnancy tests, screening for sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, family planning, ante-natal care and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.