Commemoration of Joint U.S./Namibian Military Success in Combating HIV/AIDS

Chief of Staff Defense Health Services Brigadier General Sophia Sheetekela-Ndeitunga, I-TECH program lead Ms. Maggy Nghatanga, distinguished guests.  Good morning.  It is my pleasure to represent the American people, and the United States Department of Defense as we celebrate our joint military success.  This year marks the 10th anniversary of cooperation between our two militaries in combating HIV/AIDs.  Through collaborative efforts of the U.S. and Namibian militaries, much has been achieved in the areas of infrastructure development, policy formulation, specialized training and more.

Combating HIV/AIDS is a priority for the United States.  The President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, commonly referred to as PEPFAR, is a United States initiative started in 2003 to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa.  The United States Department of Defense receives PEPFAR funding to conduct its own HIV/AIDS prevention programs.  Those funds are what allowed us, through our implementing partner I-TECH, to work with you in combating HIV/AIDS within the Namibian Defense Forces.

In the area of infrastructure, together we established your first HIV Care and Treatment Service, at Grootfontein military base, to include a laboratory, pharmacy, storage for antiretrovirals, and the recruitment of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and auxiliary staff.  This facility has been providing comprehensive care for HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and other palliative care services to military personnel since 2009.  With the assistance of our implementing partner, your laboratory at Grootfontein developed a Quality Management System, a key step toward receiving accreditation.

In the area of policy development, we collaborated to develop your Ministry of Defense HIV/AIDS policy- a policy that promotes the reduction of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination within the defense forces and that provides for confidential access to care and treatment.

In the area of training, our collective efforts provided specialized training for more than 500 Ministry of Defense health care personnel, to include training in HIV laboratory services Anti-Retroviral Therapy, TB/HIV treatment, sexually transmitted infections, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, HIV testing and counseling, leadership capacity building, and others.  Additionally, our implementing partner I-TECH, has provided routine on-site mentoring by both an HIV physician and a nurse.

In other areas, the procurement of two vans allows for mobile testing.  Collaboration with the Namibia University of Science and Technology resulted in the development of an HIV counseling and testing database for military personnel. The system is now being fully maintained by your Ministry of Defense.  Finally, there is the “Remember Eliphas” educational trilogy film, released in 2010, that is used to educate NDF personnel about HIV care and treatment services.

I want to conclude by emphasizing that the United States Department of Defense remains committed to combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Namibia.  The funding that supported our cooperative efforts will remain in Namibia, through our cooperation with your Ministry of Health and Social Services.  I fully expect that future programs will build upon the success of our military cooperation in HIV/AIDS-related infrastructure development, policy formulation, and specialized training

Thank You.