‘HIV clinics’ promote stigma

15 Mar 2018 21:20pm
By Paulus Shiku
WALVIS BAY, 15 MAR (NAMPA) – The separate HIV/Aids clinic in Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay is still in place despite a directive to integrate it into the normal clinic here.
Over the past two years, HIV patients at the harbour town complained to the media regarding the clinic, saying it promotes stigma and requested that its isolation should be discontinued.
Those who spoke to Nampa last year, said their statuses are being exposed to the public by having a separate clinic where they collect their medication.
“It is not difficult for someone to tell I am HIV positive because they see me every month standing in the queue at the HIV clinic, why can’t we just collect medicine in one clinic, just like any other patient,” said one resident.
Several efforts by Nampa to get comment from the Ministry of Health and Social Services’s communication department proved futile as the queries were ignored.
Approached with the same questions at Swakopmund on Thursday, health minister, Bernard Haufiku said a directive was issued already in 2015 to integrate such facilities across the country.
Haufiku said he does not even understand why such facilities existed in the first place, because to him, this promotes stigma.
“That is not how it is supposed to be. I do not know why the clinic in Kuisebmond is still operational, maybe it is the implementation issue, but a directive was issued and repeated again in 2016.”
The minister said he gave the same order to Elavi clinic in the Oshivelo area, where they also had a separate clinic which reads ‘HIV Clinic’ on the door.
“I would not want to walk into something that reads HIV on the door where everyone is watching. I know we are supposed to be open about the pandemic, but it is human nature to feel uncomfortable about some things,” he said.
Haufiku further noted that there should only be one clinic where all patients walk in and get their medicines, without anybody feeling the public or their friends know what disease they have.
Even condoms should not be handed out to people in public just like that, they need to be placed in a place where those who do not want to be seen taking them can freely do so, he said.
“Instead of placing them at the reception, maybe place them in the toilet or somewhere, in my view those are bedroom secrets and should be treated as such for those who prefer,” Haufiku explained.
The minister, who is a medical doctor, is on a two-day outreach programme in Erongo which started on Wednesday.
It is aimed at better equipping medical staff in the region, especially doctors with the skills to operate on patients.