Sunday, December 13, 2009

Alcohol Abuse Leads To Increased Risk Of HIV

Namibia Economist

Excessive alcohol abuse amongst Namibians is one of the main causes fuelling the spread of HIV and AIDS, according to a 2008 report on the behavioural and contextual factors driving the epidemic in Namibia.

“A recent study on alcohol consumption, sexual partners and HIV transmission in Namibia concludes that Namibians are not socialised to drink in moderation and also don’t recognise the difference between abstention and responsible drinking. In regard to HIV and AIDS, alcohol abuse becomes a dangerous trap by making the individual more vulnerable to engage in risky sexual behaviour such as unprotected sex and multiple concurrent partnerships,” said Stefan Sckell, Counsellor for Development Cooperation at the German embassy.

He said, although inconsistent condom use and multiple concurrent partnerships were also identified as drivers of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the country, alcohol abuse presents an underlying and reinforcing factor.

Namibia has made significant strides in the fight against HIV, as the prevalence rate has declined from 22% in 2002 to 17.8% in 2008.

And according to Prime Minister, Nahas Angula, there has been a rapid and comprehensive roll-out of anti-retroviral treatment (ART) as 75% of people living with HIV receive treatment. An increase in the distribution and use of condoms has also been reported.

“During last year’s National Testing Day over 30 000 Namibians went and got tested. This year, people were even more responsive so that almost 85 000 of our fellow country women and men came for an HIV test over the course of the National Testing Day campaign. Furthermore, mobile testing services are becoming more and more popular. We are also seeing an encouraging increase in the distribution and use of condoms,” said Angula.

He further said more emphasis should be placed on prevention programmes and alcohol addiction treatment programs which are relevant and responsive to the particular risks present in a given community.

“We must also intesify our prevention efforts for our most productive age groups and those who are working for the economic progress of our nation. Let us ensure that all workplaces put in place effective HIV/AIDS prevention programmes as part of broader employee wellness services,” Angula said.

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