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NAMIBIA: PWAs hopeful about treatment programme

Photo: Salamatu Foundation
An HIV/AIDS billboard in Namibia
Johannesburg, 10 December 2003 (PlusNews) - Plans to provide anti-AIDS drugs to HIV-positive Namibians are slowly taking shape, but the pace of implementing the government's treatment programme is still cause for concern, activists told PlusNews.

"Things are happening, but not at the pace we want; treatment is being rolled out, but it is still not country-wide," said Conny Samaria, advocacy manager for Lironga Eparu, an NGO assisting people living with HIV/AIDS.

The government promised that eight sites would be distributing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment by the end of the year. After announcing it had budgeted US $10.9 million for the purchase of ARVs in April this year, the health department began providing the medication in 5 hospitals across the country in Windhoek, Rundu, Oshakati and Walvis Bay.

This was a "positive step" Samaria admitted. "These are some of the worst affected towns and they have tried to cover all their bases geographically." But there was a still long way to go before "all those people who really need it on the ground" had been reached, he pointed out.

According to recent news reports, the government's initial goal was to have ARVs available in at least one hospital in each of the country's 13 regions. The Minister of Health was reported as saying they hoped to put up to 25,000 people on treatment by the end of 2005.

Nevertheless, staff shortages and poor infrastructure remained major obstacles. "We are quite aware that an immediate universal rollout is impossible," Samaria said.

Lironga Eparu supported the government's efforts to undertake "proper planning" before expanding its drug rollout campaign, as this would ensure the programme was sustainable. To this end, HIV-positive Namibians have participated in the campaign, with Lironga Eparu representatives sitting on the government's ARV committees.

"The fact that we, as people living with HIV/AIDS, have now been given a platform is a sign that we are making strides in the right direction," Samaria commented.

Another positive development had been the involvement of NGOs and private companies. Mining company Namdeb, which announced last year it would provide ARVs to its employees, launched a treatment programme last week.

However, recent meetings held by HIV-positive people revealed the need for more education on treatment. PWAs called for nutritional support and projects addressing their psychosocial needs, as there was more to a treatment plan than "just ARVs", Samaria commented.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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