By Marianne Nghidengwa
THERE are currently 150 000 people receiving anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment through public hospitals countrywide, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Benhard Haufiku has said.
In an exclusive interview with Confidente this week, Haufiku said that the figure includes both adults and children but quickly pointed out that the latter decreased owing to Government’s strides in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). PMTCT programmes provide antiretroviral treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women to stop their infants from acquiring the virus. Without treatment, the likelihood of HIV passing from mother-to-child is 15 percent to 45 percent.
Haufiku attributes the figure to new ARV treatment guidelines saying people living with HIV go on ARV treatment as soon as they test positive, unlike in the past when they had to wait for their CD4 count to drop to a certain level.
“There are 150 000 people on ARV treatment at the moment. This figure includes young and old although the figure of those young is not as high because of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes. That is a success. Also we don’t wait for the CD4 count of a person and put them immediately on ARV treatment as soon as they test positive,” Haufiku explained.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) late last year announced new ARV treatment guidelines for HIV patients, forming part of the organisations revised and updated 2016 guidelines on the use of anti-retroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infections.
At the time, WHO said that the expanded use of antiretroviral treatment is supported by recent findings from clinical trials confirming that early use of ARV keeps people living with HIV alive and healthier, and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to their partners. In the past HIV-positive patients were mainly treated after their CD4 count had dropped to 500 cells/mm3 before going on antiretroviral.
WHO in recent times ranked Namibia among the top African countries in ARV delivery. By 2015, about 104 531 HIV positive Namibians were on ARV treatment while the number increased slightly over 130 000 in 2016. The prevalence of HIV in Namibia is among the highest in the world. Since 1996, HIV has been the leading cause of death in the country. Unofficial statistics indicate that close to 17 percent of the country’s children under the age of 18 are orphaned by at least one parent – mostly due to HIV
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015