THIS month a sad chapter in our nation’s response to people living with HIV and AIDS has finally come to an end and we are a better nation for it.
A policy lacking any public health justification was removed when the country let go of travel restrictions for people living with HIV and AIDS. The new legislation took effect on 1 July 2010.
United Nations’ AIDS agency (UNAIDS) has always insisted that there is no evidence that such restrictions prevent HIV transmission or protect public health and that HIV-related travel bans have no economic justification as people living with HIV can lead long and productive working lives.
The Namibian government must be applauded for ending discrimination which violated human rights as the travel ban served no purpose except to hamper the global AIDS response. This sends a strong, clear message that Namibia is working to end discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS.
The government was never in the practice of testing visitors to Namibia for HIV, but immigration and visa applications asked whether the applicant had any communicable diseases; a yes answer meant no entry, meaning that many people lied on the forms and then lived in fear or worse yet, avoided getting tested out of fear that a positive result would somehow be reported.
If we want to be a global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it and the government has just taken a bold step.
In this month’s edition, Minister of Defence Charles Namoloh opens up his military portfolio defending the funding that his Ministry gets from the national budget as well as reviewing the present situation of the defence forces.
The Ministry of Defence rarely goes public with its operations, perhaps for security reasons and it has become one of the closed books ahead of the combined pursuit for Vision 2030. But Namoloh opens up a development debate when he maintains that his Ministry will be the first to attain much of the goals set for Vision 2030.
Also in this edition is a statement once made by retired former Minister of Veteran Affairs Ngarikutuke Tjiriange that after 20 years of independence, the wounds and scars from the liberation struggle are still fresh in most former fighters’ minds and little has been done to psychologically brave them up for the present environment.
Psychologist and Neurotherapist Aina-Nelago Iimbili in her profile under Women In Business hints on the need to have combined efforts by all stakeholders to help those former freedom fighters be integrated into society.
Although most have been integrated economically with resources given to them, the fact that there is a high number of former fighters being suspended from work or even expelled for either high alcohol intake or ‘strange behaviour’ calls for the powers that be, especially in the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Veteran Affairs, Namibia Police and Prison Services where most of them are employed, to give ‘special treatment’ when these former freedom fighters deviate.
Iimbili argues that there is a need to get the ‘strangeness’ out of these people, which calls for a new approach in assisting such the former freedom fighters.
Perhaps that explains the high suicide rates, high rates of physical abuse, alcohol abuse, and child abuse in some parts of the country.
In order for Namibia not to become a ‘nation of drunkards’ it does not end with closing shebeens or arresting people, it needs consultations with experts like Aina Nelago-Imbili. Twenty years on, the scars live on, twenty years on, the wounds maybe an obstacle for national development.PF