Namibian Program Requires HIV-Positive People To Have Treatment Supporter

Armen Hareyan's picture

A Namibian program thatrequires HIV-positive people to have a "treatment supporter" beforebeginning antiretroviral therapy at public hospitals in the country couldhinder access to treatment, some critics of the program have said recently, theNew Era/ reports. Critics of the programalso have said it violates patients' right to confidentiality.

A treatment supporter typically is a family member, partner or friend olderthan age 18 who has been educated about HIV/AIDS and helps people living withthe disease adhere to their treatment regimens, Minister of Health and SocialServices Richard Kamwi said. According to the New Era/, treatmentsupporters also can:

  • Encourage abstinence or condom use;

  • Help HIV-positive people keep medical appointments;

  • Remind people to take medications;

  • Tell health workers about any problems that might affect treatment;


  • Ensure the patient does not abuse alcohol and drugs; and

  • Contact home-based caregivers as necessary.

Kamwi said the requirementthat HIV-positive people have a treatment supporter is necessary to help meetthe government's goal of prolonging the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS."The objective is to prolong life, and we are looking at a viable way ofdoing this," Kamwi said, adding, "We encourage ... that the clienthas a supporter because if they start the medication and then stop, their lifeis shortened."

The HIV/AIDS Law Unit at the Legal AssistanceCentre in Namibia hassaid the requirement violates HIV-positive people's right to make decisionsregarding their treatment. According to the law unit, HIV-positive people mightnot want to seek a treatment supporter out of fear of stigma, discrimination,exclusion or loss of confidentiality.

Kamwi said that the policy does not violate human rights and that all World Health Organization member states have similar policies. Salvator Niyonzima, UNAIDScountry coordinator in Namibia, supported Kamwi's position and said thatdifferent countries have developed different strategies to encourageHIV-positive people to adhere to their treatment regimens. He added that thetreatment supporter policy was introduced because many people reporteddifficulty in following treatment recommendations.

More than 230,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Namibia, 52,000 of whomwere in need of treatment access at the end of 2006 (Sibeene, NewEra/, 12/12).

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