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ABOUT 7 000 more Namibians are expected to be infected with the HI-virus by the end of the current financial year, which will bring Namibia’s total HIV-AIDS infections to 227 000, Erongo health director Jeremiah Nghipundjwa says.
He said although there has been a significant drop in cases nationally, new infections are still being recorded, and much of that could be tied to the consequences of alcohol abuse, socio-economic hardships and dwindling funds that go towards the fight against the disease.
Nghipundjwa was speaking on Wednesday at the announcement of the Namibia AIDS conference, scheduled to take place at Swakopmund from 28 to 30 November, in conjunction with World AIDS Day on 1 December.
The first case of HIV-AIDS in Namibia (or formerly South West Africa) was detected in 1986. The disease reached epidemic proportions in the 1990s.
“To have HIV-AIDS was considered a death sentence at the time. People were even afraid of sharing the same living space with those infected, and those who were infected were stigmatised,” he noted.
In the late 1990s, surveys, monitoring, treatment and prevention programmes were introduced, and although the highest infection rate was around 22%, the figure had dropped to less than 17% during the last survey in 2014.
“We are trusting that this drop will continue, and we believe the strategies used in combatting HIV-AIDS have had a positive impact,” Nghipundjwa said.
The conference, under the theme ‘Together We are Ending AIDS’, is expected to bring local and international people and organisations together to share their latest experiences and knowledge relating to the research and treatment of HIV-AIDS, the sharing of best practices in response and awareness, and the development of partnerships. According to Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua, HIV-AIDS is a “dynamic disease”, and it was therefore important for those affected and infected to adapt their responses accordingly in light of current transmission trends, human behaviour and medical treatment. He said the conference will greatly enhance how Namibians can adapt to “eradicate” HIV-AIDS.
“Namibia has already made great strides in fighting HIV-AIDS, and with this conference and the experiences and lessons to be learned, we can eradicate HIV-AIDS by 2030,” he stated.