Let me begin by offering my sincere congratulations on the launch of this Minimum Package of HIV and TB Services for People in Correctional Facilities and Police Holding Cells. This is a shining example of partnership and collaboration and it my great pleasure to be here today on behalf of the United States Government.
The minimum package document is a critical component of a larger roadmap that will help Namibia to achieve and sustain epidemic control of both HIV and TB. The past twenty of years of partnership between the US government and Namibia have been extraordinarily successful, as evidenced by the dramatic decline of both TB and HIV. However, despite these impressive gains, to maintain control over these epidemics requires a concerted effort to reach all Namibians, no matter where they are.
So, what is a minimum package? At it simplest, it is a written consensus of what types of services all people should be able to access. It serves as a critical first step in the process to ensure high quality services to all people with HIV or TB everywhere. The goal is to provide standardized guidance that all providers can follow, in every clinical setting. This helps ensure consistency of services in different facilities, and even within a single facility, among different providers.
In many healthcare settings, there has been a large push in the past several years to move towards basic checklists of medical care. The idea is to support providers to never accidentally skip a step, and to avoid any medical errors. A minimum package has a similar goal – to guarantee that the medical care delivered across the country never skips a step, and that everyone has access to the essential health services to improve not only their individual health, and also to improve the health of the larger community.
Achieving consistency within one organization can be hard; achieving consistency between organizations is much harder. This is yet another reason that today is such a milestone. We are not just celebrating the launch of a minimum package; we are celebrating the success of partnership between stakeholders. In the Forward of the Minimum Package, Honorable Dr. Albert Kawana the Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, wrote: For Namibia to be able to control TB/HIV and end AIDS by 2030, all the stakeholders that deal with HIV service delivery in Namibia including NCS and NAMPOL need to work together and implement the national HIV response to ensure individuals affected by HIV and TB have access to the same standard of care and treatment especially people in congregated settings.
These words capture the vital importance of partners working together, and we are here today to celebrate the impactful results.
The U.S. Government is proud to be part of this partnership and to contribute to another successful effort led by the Namibian government. We feel privileged to do our part to help strengthen HIV prevention, care and treatment services in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has supported the Namibian government in all aspects of the process, helping create the minimum package document, training providers to facilitate implementation, providing resources such as computers and cell phones, installing prefabricated structures where needed, and supporting the Ministry of Health to provide mentorship support for Correctional Services staff.
CDC Namibia had the opportunity at the end of August to visit the Elizabeth Nepemba Correction Facility in Kavango. It was so wonderful for our team to see the real world impact of our longstanding support. Our team was shown how offenders can access HIV and TB prevention and treatment services, and were truly impressed by all of the staff at the facility; from the leadership to the nurses; everyone paid attention to the services delivered and eagerly awaited feedback about ways that they could further improve the excellent services already provided. They even told me about the small things that help to make the services go above and beyond the minimum – such as the suggestion box in the residence area and the strawberry garden that is managed by offenders.
Going above and beyond – that is the theme I would like to leave you with. A minimum package is without a doubt the critical first step to strengthen and maintain high quality HIV and TB services, but it is just the beginning. We will always strive to go above and beyond the minimum as we continuously work together to improve services. Bessie Coleman, an American aviator and the first African American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license said, “If I can create the minimum of my plans and desires, there shall be no regrets.”
I challenge of us, government colleagues and partners, to do the important and challenging next step, which is take this document and put it into action. When we look back at the implementation of this package in five or ten years, we should be able to say that it was not just a policy or a guideline, but that through hard work and determination, it became a reality. We should be able to say with confidence that every individual in correctional facility or police holding center does indeed have access to the best health services possible.
In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to recognize the key stakeholders involved in the preparation of the Minimum Package, namely the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, specifically the Namibian Police Force and Namibian Correctional Service, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, UNODC, UNAIDS, and WHO. Together, with the team from CDC Namibia, you have partnered together to make the minimum package document a reality. We look forward to continuing to work side by side in implementation and are committed to partnering together for long term success.