Namibia launches strategy to encourage HIV testing among men
Namibia on Tuesday launched a program, the MenStar strategy, to promote HIV testing and treatment among men for the country to ultimately reach the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, an official said.
Speaking at the launch of the program, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Esther Muinjangue said the government, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Namibia Office, implemented the MenStar strategy to increase the uptake of HIV services such as testing, treatment, care, and support to retain men on treatment and achieve durable viral load suppression.
"Social data indicates that men are lagging in the uptake of HIV services. This has resulted in poor retention to care and viral load suppression among men, subsequently contributing to new HIV infections in the general population, as well as increased morbidity and mortality among men," she said.
According to Muinjangue, the 2017 Namibia Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment report highlights that the 90-90-90 UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) target was mostly achieved for women (90-97-92) compared to men (80-95-89).
"These findings indicate that men are lagging in the HIV cascade and negatively impacting the fight against HIV/AIDS in Namibia. As the country strives to end AIDS by achieving the 95-95-95 UNAIDS targets, focused interventions and strategies are required to close the specific gaps, such as the low uptake of HIV services among men in the fight against HIV/AIDS," she said.
The UNAIDS aims for HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression rates to be 95 percent-95 percent-95 percent by 2025.
Sociocultural norms and beliefs around masculinity have been noted as the main driver for the low uptake of HIV services, she said, adding that the strategy will create platforms that will promote and support engagement and dialogue on HIV/AIDS awareness, adherence, and service delivery uptake at facility and community levels.
"These platforms will further implement activities that support the retention in care and viral load suppression among men as alluded to in the National Strategic Framework," she said.
To date, more than 195,000 people living with HIV, men and women included, have access to effective antiretroviral therapy through the differentiated service delivery models implemented across Namibia, which enabled the southern African country to reach the HIV epidemic control while striving to end AIDS by 2030.