More Than 3,000 Namibians Receive HIV Medication in 300 Communities

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Onkani Village
A member of the Yambididha support group at Onkani Village (Namibia) receives her HIV medicines from Hendrina Iishulu with U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson and USAID Southern Africa Regional Mission Director, Mr. John Groarke, looking on.

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 12, 2019
Ralph Höfelein, Outreach & Communications, USAID/Namibia
+264 61 273 704

Onkani Village, Namibia - On 05 September 2019, U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson together with USAID Southern Africa Regional Mission Director, John Groarke, and USAID Country Representative Dr. Randy Kolstad visited Onkani Village in Namibia’s Omusati Region to celebrate the establishment of more than 300 Community Adherence Groups (CAGs) with over 3,200 members that receive their HIV medication (ARV) at their communities instead of having to individually collect them at a health facility.

The groups have been established since 2018 with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by Tonata PLHIV Network. The U.S. government representatives also had the opportunity to witness the ARV distribution process of the Yambididha refill group at their meeting point under a tree in Onkani Village.

“Because of the Community Adherence Groups, these patients are now able to get their HIV medication in their villages, saving them precious time and money.  Through these groups, the work of staying healthy and on treatment becomes a shared responsibility,” highlighted Ambassador Johnson. The Executive Director of the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services thanked the U.S. government for its continued support in fighting the country’s HIV epidemic at all levels.

The community-based model is simple and effective:  Locally organized groups of about a dozen stable patients select one or two of their members to fetch everyone’s HIV medication at the nearest health facility and distribute them to the group members upon their return to the village.  This saves time and money since members can now attend to their daily work, children, crops and livestock instead of traveling long distances and spending time in the clinic queue to get their ARVs.

Studies show that patients who use community-based programs such as CAGs are more likely to stay on treatment and reduce the viral load in their bodies to an undetectable level. When HIV is undetectable, it cannot hurt your body or be transmitted to others.

USAID Regional Mission Director Groarke and Namibia’s Country Representative Kolstad also visited Okankolo Clinic near the town of Ondangwa to learn about the facility’s progress in HIV index-partner testing: when a patient is tested HIV-positive at the clinic, medical staff works with the patient to identify all sexual partners to have them tested for HIV also - thus reducing the risk of further HIV infections by people who don’t know their status.

With PEPFAR funding, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been supporting Namibia’s health sector for the past 15 years. The latest data show Namibia has already exceeded the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal for 2020. This means that 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those who know their status are on treatment, and 90% of those on treatment are virally suppressed.

Namibia is considered one of the top-performing African countries in reaching epidemic control.