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HIV/AIDS in Namibia

HIV/AIDS in NamibiaNamibia has one of the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. HIV/AIDS in Namibia has been on the decline since 2000, but in 2021, the country still ranked fourth in the world based on infection rate, with 11% of adults aged 15-49 living with HIV. Although this is an improvement over the country’s 14.1% infection rate as of 2000, the country is working to lower the current rate. The Namibian government works in tandem with local organizations to reduce infection rates across the country.

PEPFAR in Namibia

PEPFAR is a United States (U.S.) initiative that aims to address HIV/AIDS internationally and is now the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. According to the U.S. Embassy in Namibia, PEPFAR has contributed nearly $1.1 billion toward reducing HIV/AIDS in Namibia since the program’s inception in 2003. The U.S. works with Namibia to identify people living with HIV/AIDS and ensure they are receiving medical care, preventing new infections and caring for vulnerable people afflicted with HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR Namibia works more closely with the Namibian government, identifying high-volume areas of infection and decentralizing services to spread treatment further.

PEPFAR’s primary goal in Namibia is to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, which means 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those diagnosed receive treatment and 90% of those receiving medical care maintain a suppressed viral load.

ART Treatment and C-BART Sites

In an effort to reach the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, the Namibian government has implemented ART treatment and C-BART sites, both of which have been successful. ART stands for antiretroviral therapy, which is an HIV treatment that involves taking a combination of HIV medicines every day to reduce an HIV-positive person’s viral load. C-BART sites are decentralized sites that bring ART treatments to peoples’ homes in rural parts of Namibia.

ART treatment is distributed on a “Treat All” basis, meaning that anyone who tests positive for HIV is automatically recommended for the treatment, no matter their circumstances. This “Treat All” initiative, along with the wide implementation of ART treatment through C-BARTs, has been very successful in reducing HIV/AIDS in Namibia, helping PEPFAR complete two out of the three “90s” in the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. The C-BART plans were especially successful, assisting in the destigmatization of HIV/AIDS in local communities because of the facilities’ community ownership.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE is an international global health and humanitarian aid nonprofit that aims to reduce HIV/AIDS in Namibia and around the world. The organization’s Namibia chapter is one of the largest nonprofits working against HIV/AIDS in Namibia and focuses on creating small-scale HIV/AIDS programs across the country. Since its inception, it has reached more than 32,000 adolescent girls and young women with its DREAMS program, which encourages women to focus on a future free of HIV. Project HOPE has also put more than 13,000 young women on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, an HIV-preventative treatment).

Looking Ahead

Since 2000, Namibia has made tremendous progress in mitigating its HIV/AIDS crisis. By working with other governmental organizations, community health centers and nonprofit organizations, Namibia has reduced the stigma around HIV and spread treatment for the disease to the most rural areas of the country. Compared to the past, this continued increase in testing and treatment has made Namibia a much safer place to live for HIV-positive people.

– Aidan Johnstone
Photo: Flickr