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UNDP Namibia and the Katima Mulilo Town Council launched the Know Your Epidemic (KYE), Know Your Response (KYR), and Modes of Transmission (MoT) Report in the Zambezi Region on the 8th of February 2016.

Whilst in the Zambezi Region, the UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Anita Kiki Gbeho also visited the Community Capacity Enhancement Project in Bukalo, to evaluate the impact the project has had in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in the community.

The Know Your Epidemic (KYE), Know Your Response (KYR), and Mode of Transmission Report addressed the purpose of the study, which was to increase the Zambezi region’s understanding of the dynamics of the HIV epidemic. The Report revealed that the Zambezi region located in the north eastern part of the country was reported to have the highest prevalence rate of HIV in Namibia estimated at 23.7%; and has continued to register the highest prevalence of HIV according to the 2014 national Sentinel surveillance.

The sites with the highest HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women attending antenatal clinic, namely Katima Mulilo (36.0%), Rundu (24.5), Onandjokwe (22.4%), Okahao (20.6%), Tsandi (20.2%) and Andara (20%) are all located in this part of the country.

Despite concerning statistics on incidence rates contained in the report, Namibia has made tremendous progress in HIV. For example: the Country continues to advocate for universal access to care and treatment for people living with HIV; Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and Anti Retro Viral Treatment (ART) guidelines have been newly revised, and ART services have been rolled out to most parts of the country.

Another positive for Namibia is progress on elimination of Mother to Child Transmission. And if this current trend continues, Namibia is on track to become one of the first countries to completely eliminate Mother to Child Transmission

Katima Mulilo has a rate that is higher than the regional average for Zambezi (37.7%) and the national average for Namibia (18.2%).

The report further highlighted the trends in HIV-related sexual behavior in the Zambezi Region, where men aged 15-19 are almost twice as likely as women the same age to have initiated sexual intercourse by age 15 (13.4% and 6.8%, respectively). According to 2013 NDHS median age at first intercourse was 19.0 years among women age 25-49 and 18.2 years among men the same age. By age 18, which is the legal age for marriage, 34.8% of women and 46.0% of men aged 25-49 years have had sexual intercourse.

The report tells us that people engaging in supposedly safe heterosexual sex are expected to account for 19% of new infections and commercial sex workers and their partners are expected to account for 22.4% of new infections. Multiple sexual partners are common in the region.

This report also revealed that traditional gender roles and the low status of women contribute to their increased vulnerability to HIV infections. There is limited communication between spouses about safe sex practises.

The study states that disposable income, personal autonomy and high mobility are contributing factors to risky sexual practises. Therefore both wealth and poverty can increase vulnerability to HIV infections and subsequent transmissions.

Low levels of circumcision, frequent and concurrent partners, and low condom use sets the scene for high HIV transmission in any population group.