It is my absolute pleasure to be here with you today to commemorate World AIDS Day in the Khomas region.
With the global theme “Communities make a difference”, it is so important to see you, the members of this community, here today because the ability to make a difference is in your hands. Namibia’s goal to achieve an AIDSfree generation depends upon you.
With the national theme “accelerating efforts towards epidemic control and ending AIDS in Namibia by 2030,” we are working together with you as health partners and implementing programs that will help us end AIDS in Namibia by 2030.
One such program that will help us achieve this goal is the initiative called DREAMS, funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR. DREAMS stands for Determined Resilient, Empowered AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe. The DREAMs program aims to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women.
DREAMS was introduced in Namibia because data showed that young women between the ages of 15 to 29 are more likely to be living with HIV compared to men their age. Young women are also more likely than young men to get newly infected with HIV.
DREAMS seeks to reduce new HIV infections among girls and young women by empowering them with social protection and safe spaces; providing educational and economic skills opportunities, and providing access to family planning and reproductive health services. DREAMS in Namibia has reached 15,000 girls and young women since the program started in October 2017.
HIV/AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Namibia, with more than 203,000 people estimated to be living with HIV. However, with today’s medicines, if you know you are HIV positive and start taking your medicine as soon as possible, and regularly, you can have every expectation of living a long and healthy life.
The Namibian government, with support from the United States and other partners recently introduced the most advanced HIV treatment currently available, TLD, on October 1. Not only does this new drug have fewer side effects, but it is more likely to keep working than other HIV medications. The introduction of TLD is a testament to Namibia and its partners to assure the health of the Namibian people.
We also now know that U=U, undetectable equals untransmittable. If you are HIV positive, and you take your HIV medication daily, you will become virally suppressed, meaning the virus cannot be detected in your body, and you cannot pass the HIV virus on to others. That is why U=U.
Today’s World AIDS Day commemoration presents us with the opportunity to look at how far Namibia has come in the fight against HIV, to redouble our efforts to efficiently find those who have HIV, and to ensure that HIV positive individuals are able to get on treatment, and remain on treatment.
The United States has contributed over 1.1 billion US dollars to fighting HIV in Namibia – the largest single contribution towards HIV by any country. No other partner can match the United States’ commitment to the health of the Namibian people. I also would like to recognize the tremendous efforts by the Namibian government in fighting HIV in Namibia. Namibia and the United States are true partners in health, and together we can end AIDS by 2030.
As we go into 2020, may we continue to work together to accelerate our efforts towards epidemic control and ending AIDS in Namibia by 2030.