Honorable Dr. Bernard Haifiku, Minister of Health and Social Services
Mr. John Hango, Acting Director, Ohangwena Regional Health Office
Mr. Peter Angala, Director, Oshikoto Regional Health Office
Father Lucas Katenda, Director, Anglican Medical Services
Sister Angela Bock, Director, Catholic Health Services
Dr. Igor Petrov, Medical Superintendent, Lutheran Medical Services Hospital in Onandgowke
IntraHealth International representatives,
Distinguished invited guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Thank you for joining us today to celebrate the launch of an important new program in the battle against HIV and AIDS in Namibia. Through the U.S. government’s contribution of US$12 million for this initiative, we are seeking to help the Namibian government and the faith-based community to control the epidemic. The official name of the program is the USAID HIV Clinical Services Technical Assistance Project, but that’s quite a mouthful, so we call it UTAP for short.
UTAP promises to be a powerful weapon against HIV because it involves a host of capable partners: the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services: the U.S. government, through USAID and PEPFAR; and the faith-based community of Namibia working through the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican Medical Services. The faith-based organizations in particular play a unique role in efforts to stop HIV and AIDS. Their deep reach into communities is central to reducing stigma and discrimination and to mobilizing people in the communities to seek early HIV testing and treatment services.
Our previous collaborations on HIV have demonstrated what we can accomplish if we work together. Our partnership has supported seven faith-based health facilities providing antiretroviral treatment to 16,000 people. That’s nearly one out of every eight individuals currently on antiretroviral treatment across Namibia. What’s more, over 25,000 Namibians are tested each year in faith-based health care facilities, contributing to a reduction in new HIV infections as people are linked into life-saving therapy.
The four-year UTAP program, implemented by our partner, IntraHealth International, builds on those achievements. UTAP will support Namibia as we all work together rapidly to expand HIV testing, increase services for pregnant HIV-positive women and babies, and reach Namibians living with TB and HIV. One of the key components of this program is bringing HIV services closer to the communities affected. Through UTAP, the United States will assist the Namibian government to train, equip and deploy health care workers who can make a real difference in communities where they work.
Our joint analysis of the HIV epidemic in Namibia indicates that more than 38,000 people are eligible for life-saving antiretroviral treatment but are not receiving it because they are not currently identified. So, special attention will be given to identifying those people. Special attention will also be given to meeting the needs of HIV-positive children and adolescents so that no Namibian is left behind.
We will do this by expanding the number of health care workers delivering HIV services; deploying mentors to work at the sites where testing and treatment are done in order to improve the experience of clients; and pursuing innovative HIV testing approaches so that we can increase the number of HIV-positive children and adults on antiretroviral therapy.
UTAP will take advantage of the great improvement in HIV testing, using a technique that determines a person’s HIV status in just 15 minutes. Our experience has shown that the speed of getting results is critical in providing HIV testing and then treatment to all parts of Namibia, where travel to health facilities is time-consuming and expensive.
In other words, using this rapid testing, people can test and know their status immediately. Those found to be HIV-positive can then be provided immediate access to treatment. This means that everyone who tests can leave the clinic with the knowledge and care that will permit them to live long and fruitful lives. Helping Namibians in this way to fight for their own health is critical, and is central to the U.S. government’s goal of supporting the people of Namibia to find Namibian solutions to Namibian challenges.
I would like to thank the Ministry of Health and Social Services for its outstanding leadership in confronting the HIV epidemic in Namibia. Additionally, I want to express my profound appreciation to the faith-based medical services for answering the government’s call to respond to the HIV epidemic and for all that you do to improve the health of the Namibian people. Congratulations for everything that has been achieved thus far. I am confident that by continuing to work together, we will achieve our common goal: an AIDS free generation in Namibia. Thank you.