Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson at the Community Adherence Groups Milestone

U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson speaking at the Community Adherence Group milestone event at Onkani Village.

We are here today with the Yambidhidha Community Adherence Group to celebrate an important achievement: more than 3,200 people in eight health districts now receive their HIV medication through Tonata’s 322 Community Adherence Groups!

If it were not for the Community Adherence Groups, many of those people would face difficulties in obtaining their medication and staying on treatment.  These groups are a real community achievement.  They have saved lives.

Thanks to the Community Adherence Groups, these patients are now able to get their HIV medication in their villages, saving them precious time and money.  Through these groups, the work of staying healthy and on treatment becomes a shared responsibility.

Please allow me to offer a big congratulations to the patients and to the teams organizing these groups!

I specifically want to highlight the members of Yambidhidha for your courage and your persistence.  You made the decision to organize yourselves and to enroll in a Community Adherence Group.  Your decision to come together has made it easier for you to stay on treatment and to support each other in overcoming challenges.

Before these groups began, every one of you had to travel to Oshikuku to get your ARVs, which is more than an hour away.  That took time and money.  But that’s not all. You also had to leave your house, field, children, and animals while travelling and then queueing for hours at a busy health facility to get your medication.

Now, with the help of these efforts, your medication literally comes to you.

This community-based model is as simple as it is effective, and this is how it works: locally organized groups of approximately a dozen stable patients select one or two of their members to go to the local health facility and collect HIV medication for everyone in their group.  These group members then return home and pass out the medications to the other members of the group.

Studies show that patients who use community-based programs like the Community Adherence Groups stay on treatment and stay virally suppressed.

Viral suppression means that HIV is undetectable in your body.  When HIV is undetectable, that means it cannot hurt your body or be transmitted to others.  That’s what controlling Namibia’s HIV epidemic is all about.  That’s why you, and others like you in other community adherence groups play an important part in Namibia’s success.

You are leaders in this program, and I would like to encourage other Namibians to take up the opportunity made possible through these PEPFAR-funded activities to organize themselves and contact Tonata or their nearest health facility to see if they can join this program.

For the past 15 years, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported countless activities addressing HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support in Namibia.  The presence here today of Namibian political, administrative, and traditional leaders shows Namibia’s commitment to eradicate this disease.

With PEPFAR funding, the United States Agency for International Development and its partner Tonata are working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to help ease the burden of antiretroviral therapy on patients.  The current partnership between Tonata and USAID that we celebrate today began in 2018 and is built on previous work by Tonata.

Finally, it’s very important to recognize the service providers and staff of the Ministry of Health and Social Services. Thanks to your tremendous work, more and more people living with HIV are empowered to live healthy and fulfilling lives.  Namibia’s Differentiated Service Delivery model is becoming a reality.

On behalf of the United States, I thank everyone who contributed to achieving this milestone.  Because of this work, today we are one step closer to HIV epidemic control in Namibia.

Together we are strong.  Together we have already achieved the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 goals.  And I have no doubt that together we will soon also achieve the 95-95-95 goals, as well as Namibia’s Vision 2030 of an AIDS-free generation.