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July 2013:

Namibia is rank as one of only seven countries – out of the total of 22 sub-Saharan countries – that made “a marked increase in progress in stopping new infections in children,” as part of the UN Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015.

Namibia has reduced new HIV infections among children by 58 percent since 2009, according to the UNAIDS progress report released yesterday. Together with Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia is one of the countries that “have rapidly decreased new HIV infections among children by 50 percent.”

The Global Plan is an initiative by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), unveiled in June 2011 during the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS. The report has two main targets to be achieved by 2015, which is to have a 90 percent reduction in the number of children newly infected with HIV, and a 50 percent reduction in the number of AIDS related maternal deaths. The Global Plan focuses on 22 countries that account for 90 percent of all new HIV infections among children. Among those countries are India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Chad, Angola, Uganda, and Burundi.

The report shows that the number of new HIV infections among children in Namibia in 2012 was 700. One out of ten pregnant women living with HIV did not receive antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, the report highlights.

Meanwhile, four out of ten women or their infants did not receive antiretroviral medicines during breastfeeding to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, the report indicates. The report also reveals that 13 000 children were eligible for antiretroviral therapy in 2012 and that nine out of ten children are receiving HIV treatment.

In 2009 the HIV transmission rate from mother to child including breastfeeding was 19 percent and it has decreased every year since then, to reach 9 percent in 2012. Although there is a marginal increase in the number of women who acquired HIV from 2009 to 2012, the number of women acquiring HIV infection is largely constant, the report indicates. In 2009, 4 700 women reportedly acquired HIV and increased to 5 100 in 2012, while 94 percent of all pregnant women are receiving HIV treatment, according to the report.

The report hints that that improved access to family planning could further reduce the number of new HIV infections among children and improve maternal health. About 59 percent of pregnancy related deaths were attributed to HIV. In addition, there is a 21 percent unmet need for family planning, the report adds.

Countries reported to have achieved a moderate decline are Burundi, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Those with reported slow declines are Angola, Chad, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Nigeria.

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé said the progress in the majority of countries is a strong indication that with focused efforts every child can be born free from HIV. “But in some countries with high numbers of new infections progress has stalled. There is a need to find out why and remove bottlenecks, which are preventing scale-up,” Sidibé said.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Norbert Forster on Monday said over 92 percent of public health facilities in Namibia are providing prevention from mother to child transmission (of HIV) services. Forster made the remarks at the launch of Namibia’s first national public health laboratory policy.

“Namibia is actually at the threshold of eliminating mother to child transmission. I commend all the women, especially those in far remote rural areas, often with no transportation to take them to health facilities, for all their efforts to access prevention from mother to child services,” Forster said.

[Courtesy of AllAfrica News]

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