Namibia plans to reduce its current HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 22 percent by more than half over the next five years.
The ministry of health is hoping to achieve this national goal through the recently launched Third Medium Term Plan (MTP III), a multisectoral response to the epidemic.
"The objective of the MTP III is to reduce the incidence of HIV infection to below epidemic threshold. In epidemiological terms this implies less than one new infection for every existing person living with HIV/AIDS," Dr Norbert Forster, Under Secretary Health and Social Welfare Policy of the Namibian Ministry of Health, explained to PlusNews.
The MTP III will run until 2009 and cost over Namibian $3.7 billion (US $575 million), of which The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed about N $800 million (US $124 million), or just less than a quarter of the resources required for the five-year effort.
Despite the deficit in funding MTP III, the involvement of all sectors of society was cause for hope insisted Salvator Niyonzima, the UNAIDS Country Coordinator.
"The commitment of the government will be converted into dollar resources, which we've already seen as the national health budget is increasing. Commitment from development partners is evident as HIV/AIDS is mainstreamed into poverty reduction. The private sector is increasingly investing a lot of resources. At a recent meeting of the Council of Churches in Namibia, the churches agreed to increase the resources they would put into the HIV/AIDS response," Niyonzima told PlusNews.
Some private sector companies have started implementing workplace-based highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), while seven of the country's 35 public hospitals are also providing it. MTP III will roll out HAART to an additional 23 centres, ensuring that 30 of the 35 public hospitals across the country will be able to provide the medication.
"The MTP III is an excellent tool because it looks at HIV/AIDS from all angles: from prevention to impact mitigation, treatment, care and support. It also ... [remedies] some of the shortcomings of MTPII ... published last year," said Niyonzima.
According to a national survey conducted in 2002, AIDS-related illnesses contributed to more than 55 percent of all recorded deaths.
"This fight against HIV/AIDS in the country requires a partnership and the inclusion of as many stakeholders as possible," said Forster.
The rollout of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) began last July; by late September just over 150 people were receiving free treatment. According to Health Minister Libertina Amathila, at least 1,500 people were now receiving ARVs at six state facilities across the country.
Namibia's first case of HIV was diagnosed in 1986 and the first HIV/AIDS plan was implemented shortly after independence in 1990.