Windhoek — With revelations that Namibia has achieved tremendous success in controlling its HIV epidemic through its HIV prevention and treatment programmes, the country's experiences in dealing with the disease will soon be at the centrepiece of global decision-making.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Deputy Director for Management and Governance, Gunilla Carlsson, said this yesterday during a meeting with First Lady Monica Geingos.
It was announced that Namibia will soon be part of the UNAIDS board.
Carlsson acknowledged that Namibia is one of the countries globally that is doing "fairly well" in its response to HIV/AIDS.
"Namibia is going to be at the centrepiece of the decision-making globally and to help all of us to better understand how to do it. We shouldn't only have theories now ... we should move and that's why I'm really looking forward to this partnership," said Carlsson.
She also remarked: "It's very challenging times but it is also interesting to see how Namibia is really having focus in going there despite challenges." Carlsson spoke at a discussion with Geingos and young people at the 22nd International AIDS Conference underway in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
According to new results from the Namibia Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA), the most remarkable finding reported in the initial analysis of the NAMPHIA data is how close Namibia is to reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by the year 2020.
The UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets are to test 90 percent of all people living with HIV, to put 90 percent of all people who tested positive for HIV on treatment and to have 90 percent of all people who are on HIV virally suppressed.
The results from the NAMPHIA survey show that Namibia is currently at 86-96-91. This means that Namibia has already reached two of the three 90-90-90 targets and is close to reaching the third target. "Overall viral suppression is higher than the international target for all adults," explained Petronella Masabane, the acting permanent secretary in the Namibian health ministry.
When analysed by sex, women have already reached 90-90-90 targets, according to her.
"This means that even though women in Namibia are more likely to have HIV than men, the women who do have HIV are also more likely to be tested, on treatment, and virally suppressed. This is excellent for women's health, as well as the well-being of children born to HIV-positive mothers," said Masabane.
HIV prevalence in adults aged 15-64 is at 12.6 percent. This is a further decrease from the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey (DHIS) which reported a 14 percent HIV prevalence for ages 15-49 and 16.4 percent for ages 50-64.
Consistent with DHIS trends, NAMPHIA data show disparities by sex, with 15.7 percent HIV prevalence amongst women compared to 9.3 percent amongst men.
"Also, incidence of new HIV infections in Namibian adults has dropped by half of the estimate from just five years ago. These results are also being announced this week at the 2018 International AIDS conference by the Minister of Health and Social Services, Honourable Bernard Haufiku," said Masabane.
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson congratulated Namibia on the strides made.
"These achievements are truly outstanding, and I congratulate the Ministry of Health and Social Services for its commitment in providing the necessary resources and services to reach this goal," she said.
"For the past 14 years, PEPFAR has partnered with the ministry to fight HIV/AIDS, and we remain committed to helping Namibia maintain the progress achieved. PEPFAR's attention now includes focusing on identifying and helping those people not yet reached, such as men who have not yet been tested, as well as young women, who disproportionately bear the burden of new HIV infections," she said.