A recent announcement by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) that there are approximately 40 new HIV infections in Namibia daily, is very worrisome and sobering.
Add to the mix the findings by the Namibia Statistical Agency (NSA) that Namibians drink more alcohol beverages given that the beverage expenditure quadrupled from 3.26 basis points in 1993/94 NCPI weights to 12.59 in 2009/10. That expenditure on education has declined, is mind boggling. This is not how things should be.
Namibia is currently one of the top five in the world with serious HIV/Aids infections. Why should this be the case when the Government and development partners have invested heavily in fighting the scourge across the entire continuum of prevention, treatment, care and support?
Namibian antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme has scored significant achievements. More than 80% of patients in need of ARTs receive them. There have been a nationwide coverage of ART service delivery, an introduction of Integrated Management of Adolescent and Adult Illness (IMAI) strategy by the MoHSS and then there has been an introduction of the quality management programme (HIVQUAL) to continuously assess and improve the quality of HIV care in public health service centres.
But the procurement of these life saving drugs costs huge amounts of money and Namibia is one of the very countries providing free ARVs. In the long run, will Government sustain the provision of ARVs, as one-hand donor-funding has been dwindling since the country was elevated to the upper-middle income status?
Most of us must have developed the “HIV/Aids fatigue” and it is tempting to say ‘what is it we haven’t heard or said about the epidemic?’ But if there is such a huge number of infections, then it shows we may be erred in our judgment. HIV/Aids is a reality we have to face, let’s not close the chapter yet.
Its impact is very severe and we cannot afford to lose skilled workers who need to power this nation to Vision 2030. We cannot risk the increase of the labour costs. At this moment, we cannot afford reduced productivity and a contracting tax base.
HIV/Aids poses a serious threat to food security as both substance and commercial farmers are affected. As efforts are being stepped up to sell Namibia as a favourable investment destination, the high rate of the virus infection discourages investor confidence and enterprise development.
Our social protection and health systems are already over-burdened and loading them more would result in total collapse.
Poverty levels are at an all-time high in this country and losing bread winners means loss of family income and household productivity, thus exacerbating poverty; an evil which should be kept at bay.
The number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) due to the virus is estimated to be over 75 000, which is way too much for a population of 2.1 million. OVCs often drop out of school and can easily turn to child labour as a result of child-headed households.
Survival at all costs puts pressure on women and young people who have to provide sexual services in exchange for an income. This leads to yet other myriad of challenges and before you realise it, the whole cycle is repeated, hence HIV/Aids. As a nation, are we doing enough to close the gaps?
Obviously, the spread of HIV is facilitated by various contextual issues affecting the nation, chief among them, multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, intergenerational sex, transactional sex, poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
Consuming too much alcohol could be the reason why people end up engaging in risky sexual behaviour. Who then would think of pursuing post-graduate qualifications or studying when things are like that?
Let’s ask why people drink so much. Who gives them hope, especially the young people? Are they driven, inspired, dreaming and looking forward enough, to politicians and civic leaders? It’s time to do some deep introspection. What messages are we feeding these young people? Have they resigned from life so early. But why?
Until next time, enjoy! PF