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PRESIDENT Hage Geingob on monday said that with 18 million people in the world on antiretroviral treatment and HIV infections among children falling, stakeholders must ensure that the AIDS epidemic is ended by the year 2030.
Geingob said this at the launch of the World AIDS report 2016 in Windhoek yesterday, held under the theme ‘Get on the Fast Track: the life cycle approach to HIV’, where he noted the drop in mother-to-child transmission in Namibia.
While the report shows that the life-extending impact of treatment is working, in 2015, up to 5,8 million people over the age of 50 were living with HIV-AIDS which is the highest figure ever in this age group.
United Nations under secretary general Michel Sidibe said while Namibia is doing very well with the reduction in mother-to- child infections, attention is needed for people living with HIV-AIDS who are over the age of 50.
“Namibia now stands a chance to end mother-to-child transmission,” he said.
Sidibe highlighted that while there is a reduction in the mother-to-child transmission during birth, infections through breastfeeding is an area that needs to be understood and worked on.
Speaking to The Namibian in an interview, Sidibe said if attention is not given to those over the age of 50, it will cost the health ministry more to treat them as it becomes more expensive to keep them alive.
He added that some of the infected people have been on treatment for over 30 years, and that puts them at higher risk of succumbing to ailments such as heart diseases. Sidibe said the decision to launch the report in Namibia was guided by three main points, which are consistency in Namibia’s political leadership in approaching the disease and its progressive policies, accessibility of needed medical facilities, and the translation of commitment into budget allocations.
“The sharing of responsibilities in the fight against the epidemic is a great advantage, and I think that is one of the reasons why Namibia is doing so well,” Sidebe said.
He also placed emphasis on how fragile the progress the world has made in fighting the epidemic is. According to Sidibe, the threat to young women remains high, especially during a girl’s transition to womanhood.
“Young women are facing triple threats. They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women, and we urgently need to do more,” he stated.
Eunice Henguva of the Namibian Women’s Health Network, who also spoke at the launch, said that ending AIDS is possible when there is unity of purpose.
The report states that in 2015, around 7 500 young women were infected with HIV per week. Studies in six locations in eastern and southern Africa reveal that girls aged between 15 and 19 years accounted for 90% of all new HIV infections in southern Africa, and more than 74% in eastern Africa.
According to the report, testing remains a major challenge, with only four of 21 priority countries in Africa providing HIV testing to more than half the babies exposed to the virus in the first week of their life.