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Namibia Makes Huge Progress In Eliminating Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission

NAMIBIA: Namibia has become the first country in Africa – and the first high-burden country in the world – to reach a key milestone in eliminating the mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and viral hepatitis B, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

It said that eastern and southern Africa are home to more than half the world’s HIV burden, and the continent accounts for two-thirds of new hepatitis B infections globally.

Namibia is home to more than 200,000 people living with HIV and new infections disproportionately impact women.

“In many countries we are failing our children by not reaching them with the same treatment with which we reach their mothers and other adults,” said UNAIDS Regional Director, East and Southern Africa, Anne Githuku-Shongwe.

“Namibia has fought against this injustice and we are proud to celebrate their immense effort to leave no child behind. They serve as a beacon for the entire region,” she said.

HIV testing among pregnant women is almost universally available across the country and access to treatment has led to a 70 per cent reduction of vertical transmission in the last 20 years.

In 2022, only 4 per cent of babies born to mothers living with HIV acquired the virus. And almost 80 per cent of infants received a timely birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine, one of the key metrics of success on the path to elimination.

Namibia has integrated primary healthcare with antenatal, child health, and sexual and reproductive health services, and free clinical services and support are widely available.

Based on specific criteria, the WHO has awarded Namibia “silver tier” status for progress on reducing hepatitis B and “bronze tier” for progress on HIV.

“This is a landmark achievement that demonstrates the life-saving possibilities of committed political leadership and effective implementation of public health priorities,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The WHO’s Triple Elimination Initiative, to curb the transmission of hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis, aims to safeguard the health of mothers and children and affirm the rights of every child to be born free from the burden of these viruses.

Africanews 

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