HIV/AIDS still leading cause of death in Namibia …as 3,000 succumb to disease in 2020

Helena Johannes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that HIV/AIDS is still the main leading cause of death in Namibia regardless of the prevention measures available.

According to Dr Eric Dziuban, CDC Country Director, the continued existence of HIV positive people who are not on treatment, is one of the main causes of death in Namibia.

“If you are HIV positive and not on treatment, the virus attacks your body and can make you very sick, very quickly. Technically people do not die from AIDS, they die from other diseases that are able to attack the body once it has been weakened by the virus,” said Dziuban.

He added that 95 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Namibia are on treatment.

“With funding from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Services to find the remaining 5 percent of people who are positive but do not know their HIV status. They are making testing more convenient for people so that they can get tested when they need to and involving tracing transmission,” Dziuban said.

He added that the only way to decrease the number of deaths due to HIV/AIDS is to make sure that people who are HIV positive are on treatment.

“Data shows that adolescent girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. This is because there is a cycle of transmission between older men and younger girls. In 2021, PEPFAR has doubled its support to Namibia for the DREAMS program,” he said.

This comes when Dziuban earlier this year revealed that over 200,000 people in the country are living with HIV.

Namibia recently joined other countries in the HIV/AIDS Day commemoration on 01 December 2020 to raise awareness, fight stigma, discrimination and focus on providing care and support for those who are already living with the disease.

According to health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula, the ministry is encouraged by the successes that Namibia has recorded in the fight against HIV pandemic over the past thirty years.

“New infections among adults 15 to 49-years old have been reduced significantly. Also, the death rate among adults has been reduced by about 60 percent. There were 10,200 deaths in 2003, compared to about 3,000 deaths in 2020 due to AIDS related causes.”

“Our progress is now 95-90-91. These sets of targets were achieved because of the robust strategies and programmes that the government and our development cooperation partners such as PEPFAR, Global Fund, UN agencies, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations have put in place and implemented,” Shangula said.

Shangula said some of successes include the fact that Namibia has now reduced new infection rates in new-born babies to below two percent according to the recent prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) data.

US ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson earlier this month announced that the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) will increase its commitment from N$1.2 million in 2020 to N$1.3 million in 2021 to winning the fight of HIV/AIDS in Namibia.

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