Speech of the Resident Coordinator at the regional meeting on Integrating Gender-Based Violence and HIV Prevention,Treatment and Care into National Alcohol Policies.

10 Jun 2014

The Honourable Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare,

The Acting Director of Social Welfare, from Ministry of Health and Social Services, Mrs Kufuna

Director of Ceremonies, from NANASO, Mr Sandie Tjaronda

Ladies and Gentlemen, It is indeed an honour to be part of this landmark event bringing countries of the region together to deliberate the integration of gender-based violence and HIV Prevention into National and Regional Alcohol policies.

While alcohol consumption can have some limited medical benefits, its excessive use does negatively impact the social and economic fabric of society. It is responsible for many health and social hazards and it undermines productivity and constrains national development efforts. Therefore, legislation aimed at regulating the production, sale and consumption of alcohol remains critical.

Alcohol is a recurring factor in the sexual risk taking behaviour of individuals, and in the effectiveness of ART and adherence to treatment regimens. The three issues-namely harmful uses of alcohol, HIV transmission and Gender Based Violence intersect where alcohol fuels sexual violence or where people who are intoxicated are vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape-resulting in increasing risks of acquiring HIV.

A recent WHO report confirmed that across the world, one out of three women will experience violence. The report also notes that women experiencing intimate partner violence are almost twice as likely as other women to have alcohol-use problems and they are one and a half times as likely to acquire HIV.

Another WHO study covering eight-countries of the region revealed that alcohol use and engagement in sexual risk behaviours tend to be found among males, adolescents, mobile populations such as truck drivers, migrant workers, commercial sex workers and prison inmates more than among other groups.

Data collected on alcohol behaviour, consumption and impacts, and HIV prevalence from 23 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa showed a close correlation between high alcohol consumption with high HIV prevalence.

What these findings tell us is that this is a serious problem and that it requires urgent attention. Indeed while all countries do have policies and covering harmful use of alcohol, gender-based violence and HIV, the symbiotic relationship between the three is rarely addressed. Invariably these are treated as distinct and separate problems.

The value of this meeting lies in the realisation that this conceptual and policy and programme gap needs to be closed so as to address the nexus between harmful uses of alcohol, Gender Based Violence and HIV transmission.

We must draw lessons from existing efforts to strengthen multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder dialogue at national as well as regional levels. It is my conviction, that this gathering will give the opportunity to delve deep into preventive mechanisms and legislation frameworks that will address all three issues concurrently in a systematic, integrated and sustainable manner.

Allow me to applaud, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the Ministry of Health and Social Services in Namibia for taking this bold step to put efforts together and jointly host this meeting in collaboration with the United Nations.

It is my hope, that countries represented here will share lessons and experiences from the region on the mitigation of the negative impacts of GBV, HIV and Gender. Your participation and contribution will go a long way in mapping key steps to be taken in addressing these issues and pave way for harnessing development potential of the African Continent.

I thank you.