HIV/AIDS Will Hinder Namibia’s Development Efforts Without Increases in Treatment, Prevention Programs, Report Says
HIV/AIDS will continue to hamper Namibia's development efforts unless the country scales up treatment and prevention programs, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Development Programme, IRIN News reports. The "single greatest threat to the expansion of human capabilities in Namibia today remains the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, through its impact on mortality, is undermining human development objectives," the report said. The report's findings were based on the Human Development Index and the Human Poverty Index, which were created by UNDP to measure quality of life and social progress.
According to the report, the average income in Namibia increased from 5,500 Namibian dollars, or $810, in the early 1990s to nearly 10,500 Namibian dollars, or $1,540, in 2004. The report also found that education improved during the same time period. However, the average life expectancy in Namibia has decreased by more than 10 years since 1991 -- a "direct result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which represents the greatest cause of death in the country" -- the report said.
The positive effects of development are "more than outweighed by the fall in life expectancy, pulling the index down," Sebastian Levine, senior economist at UNDP in Namibia, said. Levine said that despite ambitious efforts to control HIV/AIDS, particularly through treatment, "prevention needs to be improved." According to IRIN, a government-sponsored antiretroviral drug program launched in 2004 provides access to 33,000 of the 67,500 people in need of treatment.
The report concluded that achieving these goals depends on the "effectiveness with which programs to treat those with AIDS and prevent new HIV infections are implemented." UNAIDS estimates show that about 23% of Namibians between ages 15 and 49 are HIV-positive (IRIN News, 10/17).