By Donna Collins
RIDING on the crest of the first ever three-day National Aids Conference last week, which drew nearly 1 000 attendees from all over Namibia, Swakopmund was also host to the World AIDS Day commemoration traditionally held on December 1, where a gathering of supporters, delegates and some great names from the local and international entertainment scene gathered.
Guest of honour South African songstress and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka was at the forefront of this momentous occasion where she offered a solidarity message, whilst bursting into song to drive home her point.
Chaka Chaka, UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa, who is a champion in the fight against AIDS amongst other causes reminded everyone that HIV/Aids is not a death sentence, but is a disease that can be managed. “We cannot be complacent, because new UNICEF evidence shows that children between the ages of 10 to 18 echo that the HIV infection is on the rise,” she stressed. “Unless we acquire crucial funding and prioritise HIV on the agenda in the upcoming year, for much needed research and Aids prevention, we won’t reach our promise of an Aids free generation.” Joining forces with the Minister of Health and Social Services, Bernard Haufiku under ‘Hands Up For HIV Prevention’, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila pointed out that HIV/AIDS imposes enormous economic, social, health, and human costs on countries. She pointed out that this year’s World AIDS Day took place against the backdrop of the launch of UNAIDS Report ‘Get on the Fast-Track: the life-cycle approach to HIV’ held on November 20 in Windhoek, by President Hage Geingob and UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibé.
“We know that HIV infects and affects indiscriminately, and it thrives on ignorance, conditions of poverty, on stigma, and in situations of unequal gender relations,” she said, adding. “It also thrives on reckless behaviour, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and unsafe sex, and it up to all of us collectively and as individuals, to take responsibility for our own health and that of others.”
Furthermore she said that the Government has mounted an aggressive campaign against HIV and AIDS, which comprises surveillance, prevention, treatment, care and support. As a result of the huge investments in life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART), Namibians are living longer and fewer people are dying of AIDS and TB, plus the Government’s efforts have significantly reduced prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).
“Namibia has managed to reduce the HIV prevalence ratio among pregnant women to 17.2 percent, from 22 percent, while even more encouraging is the downward trend in new HIV infections which dropped from 9 238 in 2012 to 7 330 in 2016, while those among children fell from 1 512 to 248 cases over the same period.
“But this devastating virus has reminded us of our common humanity and our common vulnerability and AIDS related deaths which has created a generation of orphans which in Namibia increased to 182 000 children in 2014 from 54 000 in 2006.
“In the workplace, HIV/AIDS is causing increased absenteeism, loss of skills and knowledge with resultant increases in training outlays, and it also raises costs for medical aids and pension funds and drains household savings.” A heartfelt testimony was delivered by HIV positive community activist Alexandrine Jeomba from the Omatjete district in the Erongo Region, as she told her story of how she contracted the disease. The mother of three said she started treatment in 2006, and is committed to the HIV response programme in her community, which is to encourage people to go for testing, to accept their results and to go for treatment.
Adding some beat to the occasion, The Dogg who is the national ambassador of the ‘Smart Cut’ campaign got everyone up with a short but lively performance. He has been travelling throughout the country spreading the gospel of circumcision. Since 1988, World AIDS Day has provided an opportunity for people across the globe to unite in the fight against the HIV-AIDS epidemic, to stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and to remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015