24 Sep 2016 15:30pm
ENGELA, 24 SEP (NAMPA) Health facilities and organisations should distribute condoms in prison as well as to sex workers, Minister of Health and Social Services Bernard Haufiku has said.
He was speaking on Thursday during the handover of two laboratories with fully automated HIV viral load testing machine systems to the Engela and Onandjokwe hospitals.
The donation is from the United States (US) Embassy in Namibia through the Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) funding programme.
Even though people opt not to talk about it, prisons are one of the main breeding areas of HIV, therefore, prisoner and sex workers need to protect themselves from acquiring or transmitting the virus. Therefore, distribute them in all these areas, urged Haufiku.
The labs will be used to routinely monitor the HIV amount that is circulating in the blood of those patients who are on anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. This will enable healthcare workers to determine whether the virus has been suppressed or not and also for them to be able to quickly make the appropriate clinical decisions that are key to keeping the patients healthier.
Built into a large container, the labs consist of one Cobas Taqman 96 viral load monitoring system, toilet facilities and, in case of outage and shortage, its own electricity and water supply.
It is worth about N.dollars 2 million each.
Ohangwena Health Regional Director Johannes Hango emphasised the importance of medical lab services, saying that for some time, the region has struggled also struggled with lab technicians and that the new donation will be causing greater changes to the regions.
These new lab facilities will be assisting in obtaining result faster than patients could get them in the past, as there was only one lab that could conduct the tests in Oshakati for the entire northern region and some tests have to be send to Windhoek, which creates delays and raises the problem of samples expiring before they can be tested, Hango said.
The new labs will now be accessible to more than 12 000 HIV patients at Onandjokwe as well as 14 000 at Engela and will be able to test over 12 000 samples per year.
Speaking during the handover of the labs, US Ambassador Thomas Daughton noted that the joint relationship between the two countries aims towards reaching the point of achieving the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 target, which is described as identifying 90 per cent of all people who are HIV positive, getting 90 per cent of them on ARV treatment and ensuring that the virus in 90 per cent of the people on the treatment is fully suppressed and fully under control.
In order to achieve this goal of epidemic control, patients living with HIV have to be able to receive quality care and testing close to their homes, hence the US supporting HIV testing both in district health facilities and in rural communities such as these, Daughton said.