Thank you for inviting me to the opening of the first Share Fair with the theme “Our planet, our health” in association with yesterday’s World Health Day.
On behalf of the U.S. government, I wish to begin by recognizing the Namibian government’s response to challenges posed by COVID-19. I also wish to highlight the heroic sacrifices made by health workers across the country to help ensure our well-being during one of the worst pandemics in history.
As we commemorate World Health Day, let us also celebrate the positive strides Namibia has made toward equitable provision of health services for all Namibians. Namibia is one of a small number of countries in the world that is leading on HIV epidemic control.
Access to health is a human right and a shared universal value. Great efforts have been made toward the provision of equitable health services, including HIV services. However, key and vulnerable populations, particularly sex workers, men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals, continue to be marginalized.
These population groups are vulnerable and affected by HIV due to certain risk behaviors, social and structural factors, and gender-based violence which contribute to limited access to health services. In the effort to resolve unique challenges facing the Key Populations, USAID awarded a five-year Cooperative
Agreement for the implementation of a project to strengthen assistance and response for sustainable HIV prevention and treatment among Key Populations.
The KP-STAR project is being implemented by a consortium of partners under the leadership of IntraHealth Namibia. Among these partners are the Rights not Rescue Trust, the Wings to Transcend Trust, the Empower Community Trust, the Voice of Hope Trust, the Society for Women Empowerment, the Harmony for All Movement, IntraHealth International and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group – all of which are represented here today.
Furthermore, efforts are made to sensitize and train Health Care Workers on the needs of Key Populations including HIV prevention, KP-friendly services, and better access to such services.
Since the start of the project in April 2020, KP-STAR has reached more than 2,000 HIV positive through testing, with almost all of them now on ART treatment. And of those on treatment, 97% had their viral load suppressed.
Additionally, more than 8,300 of those who have tested HIV negative now receive Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – or PrEP – to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
To sustain HIV prevention and treatment among KPs, USAID recognizes the need to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of KP-led organizations which explains why we are here today.
Share Fairs are excellent platforms to increase awareness and share experiences in a participatory way. Today, we are witnessing such innovations first-hand, and I hope this will also help reduce stigma and increase access to HIV services for KPs as Namibia journeys towards epidemic control.
KP-led organizations are key to the fight to mitigate the negative impact of HIV on the lives of Namibians including Key Populations – for a lasting, locally owned, sustained response.
In conclusion, I pledge our commitment to continue supporting the Government and the people of Namibia to improve the health and well-being of all citizens.