HIV in 9 out of 10 Infected Children Below Detection Level

Vann Rolfson, Acting USAID Country Representative, and Beauty Kwenda, NARP Chief of Party at Project Hope Namibia (left) with John Hango, Regional Health Director, and Honorable Mathew Shikongo, Councillor for the Ongenga Constituency (right) together with program beneficiaries celebrating that 90%

Okambebe – HIV concentration in 90% of children living with the virus in Ohangwena Region is so low that a blood test cannot detect HIV anymore. This is the encouraging result of strict adherence to antiretroviral therapy and other support services provided by Project Hope’s Namibia Adherence and Retention Project (NARP).

“Once HIV cannot be detected in the blood, you are virally suppressed, which means that you cannot infect others anymore,” highlighted Vann Rolfson, Acting Country Representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at Okambebe Clinic in the Ohangwena Region. “This is yet another step for Namibia to reach the United Nations 95-95-95 goals.”

These UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals are that 95% of the HIV-positive population knows their status, 95% of those who know their status are on antiretroviral treatment, and that the viral load of 95% of those on treatment is suppressed and undetectable. The Ministry of Health and Social Services launched its “Undetectable = Untransmittable” campaign on 29 September 2022, reinforcing the importance of viral load suppression.

NARP is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID and targets orphans and vulnerable children in eight high-burden HIV regions of Namibia: Ohangwena, Kavango East, Kavango West, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Zambezi, and Khomas.

As of June 2022, the project supported 24,821 orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia, of which 7,871 are HIV-positive and on treatment, and of those approximately three quarters are virally suppressed. Additionally, the program provides components of economic strengthening to help reduce the financial vulnerability of families and empower them to meet their essential needs.

This project, combined with other activities led by the Health Ministry — such as transitioning children to newer and better medication and enrolling them in peer-supporting Teen Clubs — is part of the comprehensive package of services offered to children and adolescents living with HIV to achieve viral load suppression and to live a long and healthy life.

Since the launch of the program in 2013, the United States government and its partners remain committed to reducing the impact, transmission, and spread of HIV through a comprehensive and community-based response. To date, the NARP project has supported more than 100,000 young Namibians.