Harvey Davis involves open the gate to his dusty, wind swept compound within the distant a part of northern Namibia.
“Welcome, welcome, it has been so lengthy since we have had guests,” he exclaims on the two well being employees.
The 79-year-old summons his spouse, Ruth Nasidengo, who’s 40, from their residence. She emerges with two infants, clinging to every arm.
That is the entrance line in Namibia’s warfare towards HIV, the place a data-driven on-the-ground method has helped it turn out to be one of the vital profitable international locations in tackling its unfold.
The red-uniformed well being employees are area officers, who report back to a troop commander, who in flip is underneath a division commander. Reasonably than weapons, their weapons are a small plastic desk and a cooler bag crammed with ice packs and HIV assessments.
Leontine Iipinge and Maria Johannes have walked greater than 3km (2 miles) from their base within the Oshana area to go to the couple.
The initials TCE, which means Complete Management of Epidemic, stand out in daring letters on their shirts. It’s a programme run by a nationwide NGO, Improvement Support from Individuals to Individuals (Dapp Namibia).
The sector employees are two of greater than 200 TCE well being employees serving a inhabitants of almost 182,000.
Mrs Nasidengo, a mom of twins, has been residing with HIV for over a decade and has been a consumer of TCE for 2 years.
However this go to is about her husband as he’s about to get his first residence HIV check.
The ice packs within the cooler preserve the proper temperature for the speedy assessments.
Together with his 11-month-old daughter, Dora, sitting on his lap Mr Davis watches as Ms Iipinge unpacks and disinfects her devices and pricks his finger.
“I am not apprehensive,” he quips, “nevertheless it positive seems to be like Dora is.”
Because the 15 minutes tick by earlier than the result’s recognized, Ms Iipinge explains how testing the companions of individuals with HIV helps include the unfold of the virus.
Again at their base in Oshakati city, they compile knowledge of all folks recognized to be HIV-positive after which set about tracing their sexual companions to ascertain their HIV standing.
The speedy check seems to be for HIV antibodies within the blood and the outcomes are indicated by stripes showing within the window of the gadget.
As Mr Davis and his daughter watch, a single stripe seems exhibiting that he’s HIV-negative (two stripes signifies a optimistic consequence). However he’s nonetheless referred to a hospital as he must be given medication that scale back the danger of contracting the virus from somebody who’s HIV-positive by 90%.
TCE area officers have labored on this space for 14 years.
They’ve constructed group belief and respect however not everybody will be simply persuaded to take an HIV check.
The following cease for Ms Iipinge and Ms Johannes is about 12km away and they’re heading to the house of Lucas Angula within the Evululuko township.
He discovered that he was HIV-positive simply final month, nevertheless it had taken his spouse, Matilda Ipandula, 10 years to persuade him to take the check:
‘We’d all the time combat and argue each time I introduced up the difficulty of HIV testing with my husband,” she says.
“He refused to pay attention and that is why I requested our neighbour to get entangled. It was troublesome nevertheless it needed to be carried out.”
The neighbour, Emirita Kuutondokwa, now varieties a part of Mr Angula’s trio, a help group made up of somebody who’s HIV-positive and two others.
He says their encouragement has helped him cope with his prognosis and take the medication that assist include the unfold of the virus.
Assist is a key ingredient to the success in containing the unfold of HIV right here.
Near Mr Angula’s home, a small knot of individuals have gathered underneath a Marula fruit tree.
They’re singing a track, within the Oshiwambo language, about how they’re the fortunate ones.
That is what is named a Group Adherence Membership – a bunch of 12 people who find themselves all HIV-positive.
They take turns to gather medicine from the clinic 20km away. This frees the remaining 11 to get on with different issues and avoids clogging up the clinic.
‘Not in regards to the cash’
After seeing to her purchasers, the division commander, Ms Johannes, joins the group to shake off the strain of the day as they dance across the tree.
“If you get into this, it is first in regards to the job and the wage however as you keep it turns into in regards to the folks and the fervour,” she says.
“I’ve had area officers right here who’ve solely stayed for 5 months as a result of they really feel what they get as a wage doesn’t compensate the time they spend at work however the ones that keep, they’ve ardour to be with the folks, to work with the folks, to enhance the lives of the folks.”
Newly launched knowledge by the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) shows it is this community-centred approach that has helped Namibia exceed a number of the 90-90-90 targets set by UNAids in 2014.
The figures measure:
- The share of people who find themselves regarded as HIV-positive who know their standing
- The share of people that know their standing who’re taking antiretroviral medication
- The share of people who find themselves taking the medication who’ve an undetectable stage of HIV
For Namibia, the figures are 86%, 96% and 91% respectively.
‘No time to loosen up’
Its neighbour, South Africa, the nation with the best variety of HIV infections on the earth, scores 90-68-78.
However Well being Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku says now isn’t the time for complacency.
“There’s a actual risk that we will attain our goal by the date set by UNAids , we simply have to present it somewhat little bit of a push as a result of we’re virtually there, just some share left. We have to focus, particularly on the prevention campaigns within the area, focusing on younger those that haven’t been examined.”
Namibia used to have one of many highest HIV-prevalence charges on the earth, however up to now 15 years, the variety of new HIV infections has halved.
However the excessive an infection fee amongst younger girls aged 15-24 continues to fret well being officers right here.
The well being minister provides that on the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day, on Saturday, he shall be encouraging younger males to get examined and handled.
In Namibia, it appears to be the older technology, males like Mr Davis and Mr Angula, who’re setting the instance.
Ms Johannes hopes that sooner or later she is going to now not need to ship dangerous information to her purchasers.
“I keep in mind there was a day in 2015,” she says.
“My first six purchasers of the day all examined optimistic. Telling six folks they’re HIV-positive, and not using a break… it is a day I will always remember.”