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NAMIBIA: MDGs - the challenge of HIV/AIDS "can be overcome"


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

WINDHOEK (PLUSNEWS) - A giant bright yellow condom was the centre of attraction in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, last Friday. Namibian civil society organisations - united in the fight against HIV/AIDS - had kicked off a series of activities in the run-up to World AIDS Day on 1 December.

"By December 2003 over 100,000 HIV/AIDS cases were [officially] reported in Namibia," deputy health minister Dr Richard Kamwi told the crowd assembled around the condom. "Although these figures are extreme, it should be noted that it is only the tip of the iceberg."

Namibia is a signatory to the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed in 2000 as a 15-year blueprint for achieving a more peaceful, prosperous and just world through a series of development targets.

Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab released Namibia's progress report earlier this month, warning that the single greatest challenge in meeting the MDGs was to "win the war against poverty and HIV/AIDS".

"While the challenge of HIV/AIDS is formidable, it is one that can be overcome. We know from experiences throughout the world and around the continent what it takes to turn the tide against AIDS in terms of leadership; in terms of resources; in terms of focus on prevention, treatment and care," said UN Resident Coordinator Jacqui Badcock, speaking at the release of the report.

She called for zero tolerance towards those that perpetrate stigma and discrimination against women and girls, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Namibia currently ranks as the country with the seventh highest HIV infection rate. One in five Namibians aged 15 to 49 is HIV positive, with women and children especially hard hit.

According to the MDG progress report, HIV prevalence among women aged 20 to 24 increased from 11 percent in 1994 to 22 percent in 2002, and a young girl today has a 25 percent risk of dying of an AIDS-related illness before her 30th birthday. In some parts of Namibia, between 50 and 70 percent of hospital admissions are AIDS-related.

Earlier this year the government finalised its third medium-term plan in the fight against AIDS, to guide strategy from 2004 to 2009. Free antiretroviral treatment at the larger state hospitals started in 2003 and is now offered in each of the 13 regions. The goal is to have 5,000 people on treatment by 2005.

Private sector initiatives provide voluntary testing and counselling centres; the Namibia Business Coalition against AIDS was established; and a Charter of Rights and Code on HIV/AIDS in Employment have been completed, defining the legal and human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Yet it is predicted that there will be about 100,000 orphans in the country by 2005, up from 87,000 in 2002.

The progress report noted that Namibia needed development assistance and support to design programmes to address the fight against HIV/AIDS and the shortage of trained human resources.

But development aid has dropped by half, from US $130 per capita in 1990 to just $60, with a number of development partners gradually reducing their grant assistance to Namibia.

"The main reason seems to be Namibia's international classification as a middle-income country," the report commented.

"This report must accordingly serve as a platform and a tool to assist in advocating that Namibia should have the same compassionate treatment as other Least Developed Countries," Gurirab noted.

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Copyright © 2004 -Integrated Regional Information Network, Publisher. All rights reserved to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) . Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Integrated Regional Information Network.

Information in this article was accurate in November 24, 2004. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.