US to spend N$1 billion on HIV/AIDS control

11 Feb 2016 20:20pm
WINDHOEK, 11 FEB (NAMPA) – The government of the United States of America (USA) is planning to spend more than N.dollars 1 billion (US dollars 67 million) on controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Namibia.
The US Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton made this announcement during the handing over of medical equipment to four private medical centres for the performing of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) here on Thursday.
“What all this means is that alongside anti-retroviral treatment and HIV testing and counselling and prevention of mother-to-child transmission, we need to promote, expand and sustain voluntary medical male circumcision.
“The reason seems pretty straightforward, even to someone like me who is not a medical professional. VMMC has proven to be one of the most economical and effective methods of reducing HIV transmission. And reducing transmission is a key component of epidemic control. That is why it is so encouraging to see the government’s proactive effort to scale up VMMC here in Namibia,” he noted.
More than 13 000 men between the ages of 15 and 49 have so far been circumcised in Namibia as part of a voluntary medical male circumcision programme. Namibia first implemented its VMMC pilot project in 2009 at leading State hospitals, such as the Windhoek Central Hospital and Oshakati Intermediate Hospital. So far, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has rolled out the programme to all 33 district hospitals in the country.
One out of every four medical circumcisions performed in Namibia is done by the private sector. Daughton said private sector healthcare capacity has traditionally not been mobilised in the VMMC response, although many private healthcare facilities can and do provide VMMC services.
The ambassador said the estimated 94 000 eligible males covered by medical aid are an untapped, accessible beneficiary pool and represent an opportunity to make a lasting impact in the fight against HIV in Namibia.
The USA is supporting the establishment of VMMC through the Namibian Association for Medical Aid Fund (NAMAF). Daughton noted that his government has provided technical assistance in the form of facility assessments to ensure readiness to provide VMMC services, training and male circumcision kits to ensure standardise care and reporting.
“The private sector has clearly demonstrated its willingness and its ability to join the Namibian government’s efforts to scale up VMMC in Namibia. They can be a formidable force in creating a sustainable HIV response, and ultimately, epidemic control here in Namibia,” he added.
Through the United States (US) President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Namibia has received over US dollars 800 million (more than N.dollars 13 billion) for HIV/AIDS activities since its inception in 2004. PEPFAR and the Namibian government are in partnership to meet joint priorities to build capacity and systems needed to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of the national HIV/AIDS programme.
The number of people living with HIV in Namibia is about 260 000, while the prevalence rate in the age group 15 to 49 is about 16 per cent, according to statistics issued by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS in 2014.