Bloodborne HIV: Don't Get Stuck!

Protect yourself from bloodborne HIV during healthcare and cosmetic services

Namibia: Lack of Healthcare or Lack of Healthcare Safety?

An online Namibian newspaper article reports that “Women who experience violence in volatile abusive relationships face four times higher risk of contracting HIV“, following a study of the links between gender based violence and HIV.

HIV prevalence is currently estimated at 13.4% in Namibia, an upper middle income country with a GDP per capita of $8,191, but also a high level of economic inequality. Population density is one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, when it comes to antenatal care, 81% of deliveries take place in a health facility. The only country I found in the region that was higher than that was South Africa, at 91.4%, which has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world.

81.5% of deliveries are performed by a skilled provider in Namibia. What is probably the highest figure in Africa is that for Botswana, at 99%. But Botswana has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world, at 25%, compared to swaziland’s 26%.

HIV prevalence is higher among women than men in Namibia, at 58% of all infections, and this phenomenon is common to every African country. While domestic and gender based violence need to be addressed regardless of how high or low HIV prevalence is, these are just as abhorrent in rich countries with low HIV prevalence as they are in an upper middle income country with high HIV prevalence.

According to the latest Service Provision Assessment, there are some very serious lapses in infection control in Namibian health facilities, including shortages or unavailability of syringes and needles, soap and water, latex gloves and disinfectant.

So what about addressing safety in health facilities? The number of physicians, nurses and midwives per 10,000 is higher than in other countries in Africa. Some of the biggest differences between Namibia and other much lower prevalence countries is its wealth and it’s far higher levels of access to health services. It is unlikely to be lack of healthcare that results in such high HIV prevalence, but rather lack of safe healthcare.

There is simply no evidence that HIV is ‘mainly driven by heterosexual sex’, the mantra that UNAIDS and the HIV industry have stuck to for so long. Prevalence in Namibia has increased from 1.2% in 1990 to reach a peak of at least 15.3% in 2007, but it has barely fallen since then. It’s time to abandon the sexual behavior fallacy and investigate non-sexual HIV transmission through unsafe healthcare, traditional and cosmetic practices.

[To read more about HIV transmission through unsafe healthcare, have a look at the Don’t Get Stuck With HIV site’s Healthcare Risks for HIV pages.]

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