Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson at the handover of the Akutsima CBART site

Seated from the left is Minister of Health, Dr. Bernard Haufiku, Ambassador Lisa Johnson, and Health Permanent Secretary, Ben Nangombe, with community leaders who were acknowledged for their leadership and commitment to their peoples’ plight to avail land for the establishment of the Community Based
Ambassador Lisa Johnson cuts the ribbon of the new Community Based ART (CBART) clinic in Akutsima. She is joined by (from left) Health Minister, Dr Bernard Haufiku, Okahao Town Councillor, Leonard Shikola, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s country director, Eric Dziuban and Health Pe

Thank you for inviting me here today.

I, too, come from a small town, so it is special for me to have the opportunity to visit places such as Akutsima. While quite different from my home town, what is the same is the sense of community. I am telling you this because I want you to know how highly I value your community. Like the African saying tells us, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I am fortunate to have many opportunities to open clinics, healthcare centers, and other health sites across Namibia. I also speak often about the importance of knowing your HIV status, encouraging people to get tested and, if found to be HIV positive, to get on treatment.

Today, I don’t need to do that. I am with a community that is leading the way in Namibia. A community where many members already have been tested for HIV. A community where, when a person tests HIV positive, he or she starts, and stays on treatment.

In this community, you have seen that care and treatment improve the health and quality of life for people living with HIV. You have seen that HIV positive members of your community are living healthy and normal lives, are raising their families, and are contributing to the economic well-being of your community.
What is special about Akutsima that is making it possible for this to be achieved? I believe it is the sense of “unity of the community.” Of helping and encouraging each other to be tested and to stay on treatment. I am pleased to be sharing in your community spirit today.

It was a beautiful drive to your village. I asked where the nearest health facility was – it is a 52 km return trip. That clearly is not a distance you can walk every day. I also saw the flood plains on my way here and realized that during the rainy season, the challenge of reaching the health facility is even more difficult.

Seeing with my own eyes the distances you travel made me realize the importance of this community-based ART services site.
I congratulate you all on working together to identify the need for this service.
I also congratulate you for showing that unity of community, which encouraged CDC Namibia, through PEPFAR funding, to provide CBART sites in five communities in the Omusati Region, including your community.

These sites will make the provision of HIV and other healthcare services to the community easier. These services include not just the delivery of antiretroviral medication, but also screening for minor ailments, immunizations, weight monitoring for children under 5 years, prescription refill for other chronic conditions, and follow-up care for mothers who have recently given birth. These services are for all people in the community.

I applaud all of you for working closely with your traditional authorities, who are present here today, and I also applaud the Ministry of Health and Social Services for promoting health in your community.

Through PEPFAR, CDC and USAID will continue to provide support to the Ministry to build suitable and high quality HIV care and treatment programs within communities.

Congratulations again, and I look forward to sharing more moments of community spirit with you in the future.

Thank you.