Women: The face of HIV

The highest recorded rate of infection in Namibia is in the Zambezi Region at 22.3%.

06 December 2019 | Health

More than 200 000 Namibians aged 15 years and older are living with HIV and more than half of them are women.

According to the health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula the northern parts of the country are most affected, with the highest recorded rate of infection in the Zambezi Region with a 22.3%.

Zambezi is followed by the Ohangwena at 17.9%, Omusati at 16.9%, Oshana at 15.8%, Kavango East at 14.5%, and Kavango West at 12.1%.

“[Another] area of concern is adolescent girls and young woman (AGYM), amongst whom high rates of HIV infections are still being observed. Thus, there is a need to dedicate more resources to help our young people,” Shangula said during an Aids Day commemoration last week.

These sentiments are echoed in the UNAids World Aids Day 2019 report titled 'Power to the People, which said young women aged 15 to 24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV as men of the same age.

According to the report globally in 2018, 6 000 adolescent girls and young women were infected with HIV weekly across the world.

The report added that in sub-Saharan Africa four in five new HIV infections are among girls aged 10 to 19 years.

“The world needs a feminist approach to HIV that will equalise power and transform the health and development agenda for women and girls and all key populations,” the report said.



Strides

Shangula said the ministry has made significant progress in reducing HIV infection by intensifying prevention of mother-to-child prevention (PMTCT) treatment.

According to him the percentage of mothers on antiretroviral treatment doubled from 42% in 2010 to 92% to date.

“Although much has been accomplished regarding access to treatment, people are still dying from the disease around the world. The good news is that Aids-related deaths have been reduced by more than 55% since their peak in 2004. In 2018, around 770 000 people died from Aids-related illnesses worldwide, compared to 1.2 million in 2010,” Shangula said.

Communities

Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, called on governments to open a space so that activists can do the work they do best.

She believes communities are the best hope for ending the epidemic because communities have fought against HIV right from the beginning.

“Without communities, 24 million people would not be on treatment today. Without communities, led by women living with and affected by HIV, we would not be close to ending new HIV infections among children, raising orphans and caring for the sick,” said Byanyima.

A statement issued by United Nations (UN) Women emphasised that the contribution of women and girls, particularly those living with HIV, is indispensable in the HIV response at the community level.

“In particular, young women and adolescent girls' leadership and engagement in the design, implementation and monitoring of HIV programmes and policies is key to ensure their needs are prioritised. We must create and institutionalise spaces where they can voice their priorities and be heard and adequately resource networks of women living with HIV to sustain their efforts and collective action.”

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