Statement by Mr. Musinga Bandora, UN Resident Coordinator at the high level ceremony for the “Towards zero new infections in Namibia: HIV combination prevention workshop for policy makers and practitioners”

08 May 2012

Let me begin by saying how happy I am to take part in this high level event for national workshop organized under the theme “Towards Zero New Infections in Namibia: HIV Combination Prevention Workshop for Policy Makers and Practitioners”. Let again pay special gratitude to the First Lady of Namibia, Mrs. Pohamba for gracing yet another occasion which the UN is partnering with the government of Namibia in addressing critical development challenges.

This morning she officiated the Southern Africa Regional Planning and Programming Workshop on Infant and Young Child Feeding, jointly organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and UNICEF.

Madam Pohamba – I thank you for your leadership in pushing the children and women health agenda in Namibia and in Africa as whole.

Ladies and gentlemen

I am informed that in the course of today you have been able to familiarize yourselves with the current status of HIV prevention in Namibia and at global level as well as with the concept of combination prevention and its application in the national context. You will be reviewing the progress made by Namibia in the fight against HIV and AIDS and the challenges ahead.  At the end of the workshop, I hope you will be able to make concrete contribution to solutions to those challenges.

On behalf of the United Nations System in Namibia I wish to commend government for the achievements and the efforts being expended. The UN, working through its joint Programme of Support for AIDS is committed  to continue  supporting  Namibia-to  focus investments  on programmes that will be most catalytic to achieving zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS- related deaths.

Ladies and gentlemen

In 2011, the United Nations’ Secretary General pointed out that bold decisions were needed to end the epidemic. He made five key recommendations to the General Assembly- all of which are relevant to Namibia:

First, prevent new HIV infections and harness the energy of young people for a Prevention revolution. Second, revitalize the push towards Universal Access – renewed global solidarity & partnership. Third, support countries to make HIV programmes more cost effective, efficient and sustainable. Fourth, promote the health and human rights of women and girls – gender sensitive and gender-transformative HIV programmes. And fifth, ensure mutual accountability as a cornerstone of the response: monitor the epidemic according to updated commitments and goals and enhance programmatic, financial and political accountability

In response, the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS set bold new targets for 2015- to reduce sexual transmission of HIV by half, to eliminate new HIV infections in children, to provide treatment for 15 million people living with HIV, to end stigma and discrimination and to close the AIDS funding gap.

Ladies and gentlemen

Namibia is making progress towards meeting those targets. With one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world- it has made headway- 30 years into the epidemic- and after 20 years of combating HIV in the country. Experience in Namibia as elsewhere, has clearly shown that-given political will, financial investment and effective partnerships, tremendous scale-up of HIV services is possible in a relatively short period of time.

Political will and commitment of government here is manifest. It is financing more than 50% of the HIV and AIDS national response. In addition, it has expressed readiness to step up and  cover  the  resource  gap-as  donor  funding  to  the  country  diminishes.  I commend the government for showing the example to the rest of the world by walking the talk of fighting HIV and AIDS with national resources. This is key to the sustainability of the fight against HIV and AIDS in the country.

Ladies and gentlemen

We cannot get to zero new infections without effective prevention. Prevention remains the single greatest obstacle to the fight against HIV and AIDS.  This  is why,  across  the globe, countries  have dedicated  themselves  to using  evidence  to inform  their  programming  and to generate a prevention revolution. This workshop is an opportunity to move in this direction – to learn from the latest evidence and regional and local best practices, and take concrete steps to scale up efficient and effective programmes

Namibia targets as outlined in the country’s National Strategic Framework are on par with the global initiatives. The need for effective HIV prevention-focusing on those most vulnerable while also ensuring sustained treatment-means that targeted, cost effective interventions will be critical.

In Namibia and elsewhere, universal access to treatment is steadily becoming possible and treatment is spawning new opportunities to revitalize prevention. Yet long-term success requires expansion of both treatment and prevention. There is evidence that, increased availability of treatment leads to increased HIV testing.  The new challenge is effectively pairing treatment and prevention.

There is global consensus that- there is no one effective means of HIV prevention. No single HIV prevention strategy will be sufficient to control the HIV pandemic-thus the need for an integrated approach-bringing into play proven social and biomedical strategies supported by facilitative policy and legal environment -as enablers of effective prevention.  In this respect, I speak of the agreed strategies of behavioral changes- including reducing concurrent partners and condom use, biomedical strategies such as male circumcision, PMCTC, and treatment, as well as social justice and human rights.

There is agreement that HIV prevention is effective when it is supported by strong and visible political leadership, and by policies that address the root causes of vulnerability, including anti-stigma measures, gender equality and women economic empowerment, and laws to combat sexual violence and human trafficking.  Indeed, HIV prevention strategies will only have limited impact if they are carried out without strong regard to social justice and human rights. In this respect, I wish to commend the government of Namibia  for the policies put in place, such as the National Gender Policy to combat gender based violence, human trafficking as well as to promote women empowerment.

Ladies and gentlemen

There is an unprecedented opportunity to develop prevention measures that combine various evidence-based strategies, tailored to the specific needs of countries and populations. Therefore and as part of the total approach to prevention, Namibia will need to upscale its combination prevention strategy- based on the specific circumstances and needs of the country.

Of course, effective partnerships remain fundamental to successful and sustainable responses. It is hence imperative that we nurture existing and develop new partnerships in order to retain the initiative in HIV response. Without a doubt we ought to ensure that synergies between HIV and broader health and human development efforts are enhanced.

Let me conclude by noting that Namibia has seen tremendous scale up of services and has been  successful  in  mitigating  the  impact  of  HIV  on  the  nation.  We  must  build  on  the achievements made  and  strengthen  combination  prevention  frameworks  that  will  take  the country steadily towards the Zero New Infections. I wish to reaffirm the commitment of the UN- working together through joint Programme of Support for AIDS, to accompany Namibia on this journey.

I thank you