by John-Colin Namene and Mercy Karuuombe

THE United States embassy in partnership with the Namibian Correctional Service, has opened two HIV testing sites at the Gobabis and Omaruru Correctional Facilities.

The embassy in a media statement said the initiative aimed to increase all Namibians’ access to HIV services.

“These testing sites will make it easier for inmates to voluntarily test for HIV. Previously, inmates needed to go to a local clinic for HIV testing,” the statement read.

Additionally, embassy spokesperson Walter Parrs said the establishment of the facilities would reduce delays in testing and HIV prevention and treatment services.

“Through this case finding, America continues to be a partner in health with Namibia to halt ongoing HIV transmission through identifying HIV transmission hotspots and providing targeted testing and prevention,” said the US ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson.Johnson mentioned the particular risk incarcerated populations face with regards to the Covid-19 virus.

She said the new HIV testing services would provide the added benefit of reducing inmates’ exposure to infections from the community.

Parrs said the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been strengthening its relationship with the Namibian Correctional Service since 2019 and that these facilities were finalised at the end of 2020.

The funding for these services was provided by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) and was facilitated through the CDC and the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

CDC Namibia has also provided computers, air conditioners, fridges, medicine cabinets, and other related equipment to the Namibian Correctional Service and the Namibian Police.

According to the US embassy, Pepfar will provide US$89 million (about N$1,2 billion) to support Namibia’s HIV prevention, care and treatment programme in 2021, after having invested nearly US$1,6 million (approximately N$23 million) in HIV programmes in Namibia since the inception of Pepfar in 2003.

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