WINDHOEK, JUNE 26 – The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) together with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have circumcised 150,000 male Namibians since 2009; milestone that was celebrated in Windhoek on 20 June 2019.
Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) is a crucial intervention in the country’s fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic as it reduces risk of infection in men by 60 per cent. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also donated tents and other VMMC outreach equipment valued at N$280,000, which was handed over to the MoHSS by U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson.
“With this equipment, health workers will be able to go and stay in areas where there is no other accommodation in order to access remote, rural communities. Health workers are at the forefront of Namibia’s HIV response. They devote their lives to a noble cause,” highlighted Ambassador Johnson.
Health Minister Dr. Kalumbi Shangula thanked the U.S. Government for its continued support: “The camping equipment that we are receiving from USAID today was identified by AIDSFree as a solution to close the distance and service gap in the rural areas. It will go a long way in ensuring that outreach teams provide services on demand in the community, including compulsory follow-ups with clients, reducing the number of visits and the chance of adverse events. It will also enable VMMC providers to continue setting safe and uncompromised standards.”
According to the 2017 NAMPHIA survey the prevalence of VMMC among males aged 15 to 64 years in Namibia is 36.4%. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that at least 80% of men aged 15 to 49 years should be circumcised to achieve a significant impact on HIV infection on national level. This is why “the country intends to provide circumcision services to a further 150,000 men by the end of 2020,” said Minister Shangula, an ambitious target which is also in line with PEPFAR’s Impact Action Agenda.
U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson emphasized that Namibia is doing well with regards to the UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals, and that with the help of VMMC the country may soon reach HIV epidemic control. However, the Ambassador also cautioned:
“I would like to reiterate that VMMC is only one of many interventions in the HIV prevention toolbox. Others are pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and condoms. Circumcision does not substitute for a condom, which, if used correctly, provides the best protection, as a condom will also prevent pregnancy and the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).”
PEPFAR is the largest commitment ever by a single nation toward an international health initiative – a comprehensive approach to combating HIV/AIDS around the world. PEPFAR employs the most diverse prevention, treatment, and care strategy in the world, with an emphasis on transparency and accountability for results. In Namibia, PEPFAR is led by the U.S. Ambassador, and programmed by an inter-agency team chaired by the PEPFAR Coordinator. – NDN Staffer