News ID: 235070
Published: 0840 GMT December 01, 2018

Namibia's success in fight against HIV

Namibia's success in fight against HIV
BBC

Harvey Davis came to open the gate to his dusty, windswept compound in the remote part of northern Namibia.

"Welcome, welcome, it's been so long since we've had visitors," he exclaims at the two health workers, BBC reported.

The 79-year-old summoned his wife, Ruth Nasidengo, who is 40, from their home. She emerged with two babies, clinging to each arm.

This is the front line in Namibia's war against HIV, where a data-driven on-the-ground approach has helped it become one of the most successful countries in tackling its spread.

The red-uniformed health workers were field officers, who report to a troop commander, who in turn is under a division commander. Rather than guns, their weapons were a small plastic table and a cooler bag filled with ice packs and HIV tests.

Leontine Iipinge and Maria Johannes had walked more than three kilometers (two miles) from their base in the Oshana region to visit the couple.

The initials TCE, meaning Total Control of Epidemic, stood out in bold letters on their shirts. It is a program run by a national NGO, Development Aid from People to People (Dapp Namibia).

The field workers were two of more than 200 TCE health workers serving a population of nearly 182,000.

Nasidengo, a mother of twins, has been living with HIV for over a decade and has been a client of TCE for two years.

But this visit was about her husband as he was about to get his first home HIV test.

The ice packs in the cooler maintain the correct temperature for the rapid tests.

With his 11-month-old daughter, Dora, sitting on his lap Davis watched as Iipinge unpacked and disinfected her instruments and pricked his finger.

"I'm not worried. But it sure looks like Dora is," he quipped.

 

Detective work

 

As the 15 minutes was ticking by before the result was known, Iipinge explained how testing the spouse of people with HIV helps contain the spread of the virus.

Back at their base in Oshakati town, they compile data of all people known to be HIV-positive and then set about tracing their spouse to establish their HIV status.

The rapid test looks for HIV antibodies in the blood and the results are indicated by stripes appearing in the window of the device.

As Davis and his daughter watched, a single stripe appeared showing that he is HIV-negative (two stripes indicates a positive result). But he was still referred to a hospital as he needed to be given drugs that reduce the risk of contracting the virus from someone who is HIV-positive by 90 percent.

TCE field officers have worked in this area for 14 years.

They have built community trust and respect but not everyone can be easily persuaded to take an HIV test.

The next stop for Iipinge and Johannes was about 12 kilometers away and they were heading to the home of Lucas Angula in the Evululuko township.

He found out that he was HIV-positive just last month, but it had taken his wife, Matilda Ipandula, 10 years to convince him to take the test: “We would always fight and argue whenever I brought up the issue of HIV testing with my husband,” she said.

"He refused to listen and that's why I asked our neighbor to get involved. It was difficult but it had to be done."

The neighbor, Emirita Kuutondokwa, now forms part of Angula's trio, a support group made up of someone who is HIV-positive and two others.

He said their encouragement has helped him deal with his diagnosis and take the drugs that help contain the spread of the virus.

Support is a key ingredient to the success in containing the spread of HIV here.

Close to Angula's house, a small knot of people had gathered under a Marula fruit tree.

They were singing a song, in the Oshiwambo language, about how they were the lucky ones.

This was what is known as a Community Adherence Club – a group of 12 people who are all HIV-positive.

They take turns to collect medication from the clinic 20 kilometers away. This frees the remaining 11 to get on with other things and avoids clogging up the clinic.

 

 

   
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Resource: BBC
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