Strict adherence to antiretroviral therapy and other support services provided by Project Hope’s Namibia Adherence and Retention Project (NARP), HIV concentrations in 90% of children living with the virus in Ohangwena Region is so low that a blood test cannot detect HIV.
This is yet another step towards Namibia meeting the United Nations 95-95-95 goals, which are that 95% of the HIV-positive population knows their status, 95% of those who know are on antiretroviral treatment, and 95% of those on treatment have a suppressed and undetectable viral load.
According to Vann Rolfson, Acting Country Representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at Okambebe Clinic in the Ohangwena Region, ‘’once HIV is no longer detectable in the blood, you are virally suppressed, which means you can no longer infect others’’.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services launched its “Undetectable = Untransmittable” campaign on 29 September 2022, reinforcing the importance of viral load suppression. NARP is funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and targets orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia’s eight high-burden HIV regions, including Ohangwena, Kavango East, Kavango West, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Zambezi and Khomas.
According to the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson, Tiffany Miller since June this year, the project supported 24,821 orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia, of whom 7,871 are HIV-positive and on treatment, and of those approximately three quarters are virally suppressed.
Additionally, the program provides components of economic strengthening to help reduce the financial vulnerability of families and empower them to meet their essential needs.
She said this project, along with other Health Ministry-led activities such as transitioning children to newer and better medication and enrolling them in peer-supporting Teen Clubs, is part of a comprehensive package of services offered to children and adolescents living with HIV in order to achieve viral load suppression and live a long and healthy life.
‘’Since the program’s inception in 2013, the US government and its partners have been dedicated to reducing the impact, transmission, and spread of HIV through a comprehensive and community-based response. To date, the NARP project has assisted over 100,000 Namibian youth,’’ she said.