It is my pleasure to be here with you all today. The Namibia University of Science and Technology’s annual HIV/AIDS and Wellness Campaign is a great way for us to share information and increase our knowledge about HIV.
This year’s theme, ‘Knowledge is Power,’ is appropriate because when we know more, we are able to do more. This means we are empowered to reach our full potential and to lead healthy lives.
HIV/AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Namibia. Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than four thousand Namibians will die from HIV/AIDS in 2019. We believe that more than two-hundred thousand people currently are living with HIV in Namibia. The good news, though, is that new HIV infections have decreased significantly since 2004.
The main reason infections have decreased is because people are educating themselves on the risk of HIV/AIDS and they know how to avoid contracting it. Also, people living with HIV/AIDS are educating themselves about how to stay healthy through medication.
The United States, through a program called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) works with the Namibian government to end HIV/AIDS in Namibia.
PEPFAR is primarily data-driven, meaning all our activities are guided by what the numbers tell us.
For example, we know that women between the ages of 15 to 29 years old are more likely to contract HIV, compared to men their age. This knowledge allows us to develop programs for this specific group of young women such as DREAMS: Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe.
DREAMS seeks to reduce new HIV infections in Adolescent Girls and Young Women. It does this by giving them safe spaces, education, economic skills, and access to family planning and reproductive health services. DREAMS in Namibia has reached 15,000 Adolescent Girls and Young Women over the past year.
For young men, we have created the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision program, targeted at young men between the ages of 15 to 29 years old. When you are circumcised, data has shown that you are 60% less likely to contract HIV.
To those of you who might be living with HIV, I urge you to stay on your treatment, develop healthy lifestyles, and know that the U.S. government is working closely with the Namibian government to ensure that you are able to lead a healthy life.
Finally, I want to remind you that U = U. This stands for undetectable equals untransmissable. This means that if you are HIV positive, and you take your HIV medication daily, you will become virally suppressed and then you cannot pass on HIV to someone else. That is why U=U. Undetectable equals untransmissable.
I wish you all a successful week of HIV education. Build on your HIV knowledge, ask questions when the information is not clear, and share everything you are learning with each other, and with your friends and your families so that your entire communities are empowered. Remember, “Knowledge is Power.” Accurate information will enable you to make well-informed decisions about your own health and that of your loved ones.