Namibia is Ahead of Schedule in Targets To End HIV/AIDS Epidemic

This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE.

Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization, working side-by-side with local health workers and communities to save lives and improve the health and well-being of people around the world. 

Learn more about Project HOPE

Three white medicine bottles are held in a person's hands.

When governments invest in public health, remarkable progress can be made. 

In 2003, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) became the world’s largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. 

Throughout its last 20 years of action — and bipartisan support across four presidential administrations — PEPFAR has invested over $100 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response and had saved 25 million lives in 55 partner countries. 

Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have declined by 68% since 2004, and new HIV infections are down by 42%. The work done through this program has also allowed for a more robust response to global health crises like Ebola and COVID-19.

Lost in the noise of other, more partisan concerns, this work is a triumph and deserves to be celebrated — especially in Namibia.

HIV/AIDS Progress in Namibia

Namibia has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates, with an estimated 11.8% of adults living with HIV, according to a 2021 report from UNAIDS. The virus is still the leading cause of death in the country, and women are most impacted by the disease.

But that makes this progress even more impressive: Namibia is well on track to hit 95-95-95 UNAIDS targets before its 2030 deadline. 

Fast-Track Targets: By 2020 - 90-90-90 HIV treatment, 500,000 new infections or fewer, zero discrimination. By 2030: 95-95-95 HIV treatment, 200,000 new HIV infections or fewer, zero discrimination
UNAIDS Fast-Track targets. Photo courtesy of UNAIDS.

95-95-95 is a Fast-Track approach set by UNAIDS with a goal to end the global HIV/AIDS epidemic in middle- and low-income countries by 2030. A country reaches this goal when it meets these data targets:

  • 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status
  • 95% of people who know their status are on treatment
  • 95% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads, meaning the virus is not detectable in their bodies
  • There are 200,000 or fewer new HIV infections

This is executed through improved and scaled operations, like community-based testing and treatment deliveries, intensified education and prevention campaigns, zero discrimination policies, and more. 

So, how’s Namibia doing?

Three bar graphs illustrate Namibia's progress toward 95-95-95 HIV targets.
HIV treatment targets continue to improve in Namibia. Photo courtesy of UNAIDS

Most recent counts show that in Namibia, 92% of people know their HIV status, 99% of people living with HIV are on treatment, and 94% of people living with HIV who are on treatment are virally suppressed.

In addition to these exciting statistics, new infections have plummeted. The estimated rate of new HIV infections in Namibia is five times lower than it was in 2002, and the estimated number of people dying from HIV is three times lower in the same time period, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

These encouraging numbers are thanks to the investment and strategic response of PEPFAR, but also to the willingness of local governmental agencies and organizations to adhere to the Fast-Track approach.

For instance, for 90% of children living with HIV in the Ohangwena Region, HIV concentration is so low that a blood test can no longer detect HIV. This result is thanks to strict adherence to antiretroviral therapy and other support services in the region. 

Those support services include initiatives like the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored & Safe) project, which is implemented by Project HOPE Namibia and funded by PEPFAR and USAIDS to specifically support adolescent girls and young women in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

DREAMS supports young women and girls ages 10–24 through educational initiatives about HIV, financial literacy, gender-based violence prevention, sexual and reproductive health services, menstrual hygiene supplies, job placement, and, of course, PrEP and HIV testing services.

As a result of these interventions, over 13,000 young Namibian women have been enrolled on PrEP treatment, and over 32,000 are actively enrolled in other DREAMS programs. 

Along with these community-centered programs, political commitment and reliable data are to thank for the amazing achievement in the reduction of HIV/AIDS in Namibia. 

“One should know the epidemiology of that disease in terms of person, place, and time,” Namibia’s Minister of Health Kalumbi Shangula said in a statement earlier this year. “We have always used this principle in monitoring and controlling the HIV epidemic in Namibia.”

A line graph illustrates the decrease in HIV cases in Namibia from 1990 to 2021
New HIV cases in Namibia are five times lower than they were in 2002. Photo courtesy of UNAIDS

As Namibia celebrates this milestone and continues to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the country, it stands as an example for the future of disease mitigation across the globe — and provides a shining light of hope.

“Namibia, once overwhelmed by a high HIV prevalence, has undergone a remarkable transformation in its fight against the epidemic,” Uche Ralph Opara, deputy regional director for Africa at Project HOPE, told Good Good Good. 

“Achieving the global targets of 95-95-95 seven years ahead of schedule, Namibia is a global exemplar in tackling HIV. With continued focused effort, it is now possible to see a future in Namibia where children grow up free from the fear of an HIV/AIDS death sentence.”

Header image courtesy of Project HOPE

Article Details

July 13, 2023 6:30 AM
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