The floods, caused by heavy rains, affected more than 350,000 people in six regions with some of the highest HIV-prevalence rates in the country. The north is also one of the poorest and most isolated parts of Namibia, with limited social services, employment opportunities and infrastructure.
At the request of the government, the UN collected data in five of the six regions on the effects of the floods on people living with HIV, orphans and vulnerable children, health facilities and AIDS service providers.
Interviews with 231 HIV-positive people on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment revealed that 23 percent of them had missed doses because they had been unable to reach health facilities due to the floods and lack of money.
A lack of food with which to take the medication to reduce side effects, knowledge about the importance of adherence, and the breakdown of support systems also played a role.
While diseases like malaria and diarrhoea spread during the emergency period, treatment for opportunistic infections and services to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission were disrupted; only 50 percent of people living with HIV reported being reached by home-based care services.
Thirty-seven percent of orphans and vulnerable children interviewed for the assessment reported that the flooding had affected their school attendance.
Of the more than 55,000 people displaced by the floods, 16,000 were moved to camps, where the conditions may have increased their risk of HIV infection. Most camps reported unreliable access to basic services like water, sanitation and firewood, as well as HIV-prevention services such as condoms.
“An increase in transactional and casual sex, including multiple and concurrent partnerships, is to be expected in conditions of close proximity and mixing of communities,” the study noted.
The authors recommended integrating HIV and AIDS into emergency response plans, with training for AIDS workers to enable them to provide interventions during emergencies.
This feature is used with permission from IRIN/PlusNews – www.plusnews.org