March 18, 2003

Opposition parties demand „drastic“ action from government against HIV/AIDS

A DTA-UDF Coalition MP, Johannes Gaseb, says Namibia could be "empty" in a decade if Government fails to take drastic steps to reduce the number of people dying from the HIV-AIDS pandemic. "The fight against HIV-AIDS is not an easy thing! The figures released last week by five of Namibia's biggest municipalities, regarding the effect of this pandemic will have on their activities by 2020, were nothing less than terrifying," Gaseb said.

He was referring to statistics on a recent assessment of the impact of HIV-AIDS on the municipalities of Ongwediva, Oshakati, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Windhoek. The report also says Namibia's crude death rate is expected to "more than triple due to AIDS". Further, life expectancy gains made since Independence have already been reversed, and is expected to fall from a high of almost 61 years to a low of 40 years by 2005. "Namibia is therefore already severely affected by HIV-AIDS, and this is set to worsen. This has taken place in the context of poverty, high levels of inequality in income status and access to resources and in the context of a high percentage of female-headed households," says the report.

Speaking during debate on the Appropriation Bill, he said Namibia should follow the example of Uganda which is now regarded as an "AIDS success story in Africa". Uganda's success has been attributed to investing heavily in training health workers, the creation of counselling networks, expanding HIV testing and promoting awareness through popular songs, drama groups, and extolling abstinence and wide condom usage.

In her contribution, CoD MP Elizabeth Amukugo said it was frightening to see the extent to which HIV-AIDS could destroy society's investment in its teaching corps. The sooner Government provided free medication to all citizens, "the sooner it will help prevent a catastrophe which will be felt by all across social, religion or creed" (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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