By Confidente Reporter
THE Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NamPHIA) survey was launched last week, which will assess the impact that collective interventions have had on HIV in Namibia and evaluate the treatment responses that have been implemented to date.
The survey will start next month and continue for the next six months, with the results being made available in 2018.
“In other words, the point of NamPHIA is to find out in detail how we have done in the fight against HIV in Namibia. The fact that the survey also has an impressive prevention, treatment and care component, which will have a positive impact on the epidemic, is an added benefit,” United States Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas F. Daughton, said at the launch event.
He said that for more than a decade, the American government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has teamed up with the government of Namibia to address the HIV epidemic in the country.
“In my time in Namibia, one of the things I have learned is how important data is to the HIV response. In fact, Namibia’s response to the HIV epidemic has always been data-driven. Namibia already uses survey tools, like the biennial HIV Sentinel Survey of pregnant women and the periodic Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).
“Both surveys provide valuable programming information. And it’s thanks to those surveys we know that Namibia is making great strides in addressing the HIV epidemic, and is even now incredibly close to meeting the UNAIDS 90/90/90 targets.
“From the HIV Sentinel Survey and the DHS, we already know that about 80 percent of people living with HIV in Namibia know their HIV status; that between 75 and 80 percent of people living with HIV in Namibia are currently on antiretroviral treatment; and that about 87 percent of people, who are on treatment, are virally suppressed,” Daughton said.
However, more information was still needed, “to cross that last gap between where we are and fully achieving the 90/90/90 targets”.
“In other words, for the last and hardest part of the journey – we need to use the power of more detailed data. We need more information because there are still things about the epidemic that we do not know and that we need to know,” the ambassador said.
“We need to get a population-based perspective to understand the full magnitude of what is not yet done. We need to validate the targeted interventions that are already being implemented. And we need detailed information that will provide a basis for the interventions still to come. To put it simply, we need to know exactly how HIV is affecting Namibia at the level of individual Namibians.”
Daughton said that while Namibia has commendable systems in place, to support people seeking treatment and care, there are people who are currently not catered for in the system.
“Everyone in this country, who is part of the fight to end AIDS, faces a clear reality: Identifying and treating people who are not yet enrolled in the system will become more and more challenging, as Namibia gets closer and closer to its goals.
“We need to take action, not just as a taskforce in a boardroom, not just as conference delegates at a meeting, but as people working together to control the AIDS epidemic. People living with HIV and people living without it; men and women; adults and children – all can play their part in helping Namibia reach epidemic control by agreeing to participate, if their household is selected, in the NamPHIA survey.
“More than 26 000 people will have the opportunity to contribute to how the healthcare system designs targeted interventions to control the AIDS epidemic,” Daughton added.
Namibia is the 13th country to implement a population-based HIV survey. The results released recently from surveys in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia show the tremendous progress those countries have made in addressing their HIV epidemics.
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