Namibia Adds 128 Health Workers to Prevent and Address HIV

Namibia celebrated another milestone in its efforts to mitigate the country’s HIV epidemic last month, when over 200 people gathered for a ceremony to honor 128 newly recruited health workers. Together, the new nurses, clinical mentors, pharmacist assistants, and data clerks will vastly increase access to HIV services in five of the country’s rural northern regions.

IntraHealth International partnered with Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services to recruit the new health workers and provide their orientation. The process was extensive (over 8,000 applications poured in for the positions), but within three months, the new health workers had been brought onboard. Now they’ve been deployed to seven priority districts in northern Namibia (Onandjokwe, Omuthiya, Tsumeb, Oshikuku, Andara, Nyangana, and Engela) and to one urban area (Grootfontein hospital and clinic).

Namibia has long suffered from a shortage of health workers, leaving many people without access to lifesaving health care and exacerbating the country’s HIV epidemic. The public health sector has fewer than 20 health workers per 10,000 people. (The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 23 per 10,000 people.) In the rural northern region, where HIV prevalence exceeds 22% in some areas, the shortage is more severe.

The government is working to quickly increase the number of trained doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health workers in the country to address this shortage—and to eventually achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets for HIV. This would mean that that 90% of all people living with HIV know their status; 90% of those diagnosed with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment (ART); and 90% of the people on treatment are living healthy lives with suppressed viral loads.

“In order to achieve this, we need to put an additional 42,000 patients on ART,” said US Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton at the August 2 event in Ongwediva, Namibia. “That sounds like a lot, but I am telling you: This is doable! And together we will make it happen.”

In-depth Orientation for Namibia’s New Health Workers

To prepare the newly recruited health workers for their roles and responsibilities, IntraHealth organized a two-day orientation following the event. This series of intense training sessions covered:

  • HIV epidemic control
  • Quality management in HIV care and treatment
  • HIV testing services
  • Systems of the HIV clinical cascade
  • ART regimes and eligibility criteria
  • Tuberculosis/HIV coinfection
  • Prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission
  • Clinical mentorship
  • Viral load monitoring and laboratory services
  • The bi-directional referral system

“The orientation was very informative and useful, especially the clinical part,” said Lovisa Nambambi, a nurse mentor from Omuthiya District. “Guidelines and processes were explained in detail. Nurse mentors who are already in the system shared some best practices with us. With my knowledge and what I gained from the orientation, I am ready to mentor my peers and to provide quality care in my district.” 

Local coverage of the event:

IntraHealth International provides technical assistance to the Government of Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services through the USAID HIV Clinical Services Technical Assistance Project (UTAP), which is funded by the US Agency for International Development and PEPFAR. IntraHealth’s Valery Mwashekele contributed reporting for this news item.