Windhoek — New data from the Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) survey shows a 50 percent reduction in the total number of new HIV infections per year in the last five years. The total national HIV prevalence in Namibia is now at 12.6 percent compared to 14 percent in 2014, according to the NAMPHIA results.
Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku commented that 50 percent reduction in HIV transmission is a remarkable achievement.
"Also, the reduction in HIV prevalence is worth celebrating," said Haufiku, but bemoaned that men are not being tested.
"Males are left behind. They are the least taking the test possibly because of an inherent bias in the antenatal sentinel surveys, which Namibia has been using to test pregnant women only for HIV and mathematically extrapolate the result to the entire society," said Haufiku.
Annual incidence of HIV infection among adults 15-49 years in Namibia is 0.36 percent. This corresponds to approximately 4500 new adult HIV infections annually.
However, there are great disparities when the subpopulations are broken down statistically. For example, HIV infection is higher among women aged 15-24 years at 0.99 percent compared to men of the same age group at 0.03 percent.
The data also shows differences in prevalence by region and age. The highest prevalence was in the Zambezi Region with 22.3 percent. HIV infections peaked at 30 percent among females aged 45 to 49, according to the results.
Additionally, the most significant finding reported in the NAMPHIA summary sheet is the achievement of viral load suppression among HIV positive patients.
The results from the survey show that viral load suppression in HIV positive adults aged 15-64 has been achieved in 77 percent of people living with HIV. This was higher in women at 81.7 percent compared to men with 69.9 percent. Geographically, the regions with the highest HIV prevalence generally had the highest proportion of individuals who are virally suppressed. The lowest suppression was in Kunene Region.
Haufiku said that Namibia has not attained all the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets because of men especially young men in the 15-25-age category who are refusing to be tested for HIV.
The UNAIDS targets require that 90 percent of people who are HIV positive to be tested, 90 percent of people who are HIV positive to be put on treatment and 90 percent of people who are on treatment to be virally suppressed. The NAMPHIA results also show that Namibia is at 86-96-90. This means that Namibia has already attained two of the three targets as announced at the International AIDS conference in Amsterdam last week.
When analysed by sex, women have reached the 90-90-90 targets. This means that even though women in Namibia are more likely to have HIV than men, the women that do have HIV are also more likely to be tested, on treatment and virally suppressed, according to preliminary results released yesterday.
The NAMPHIA survey which was carried out last year reached 24 000 people. The survey was conducted among people in the 0-64 year age category. It was made possible with financial funding from PEPFAR (The US President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief).