Against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s stringent budget that could see US foreign aid slashed, former US President George W Bush and his wife, Laura, were in Namibia this week where they reiterated their commitment to global health and also underscored the importance of cooperation among nations.
The Bush family were on a two-day visit to Namibia, as part of their George W. Bush Institute’s work on global women’s health and women’s leadership.
They highlighted health and education advances made on the continent with the help of US aid and urged Americans to understand that through their government’s efforts and collaboration with African states, millions of lives have been saved.
Bush encouraged Namibian women to go for early screening for cervical and breast cancer, which are the most prevalent types of cancer in the country and took note of the significant reduction of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Speaking at the Windhoek Central Hospital, Bush reiterated the US government’s commitment to fight HIV/AIDS and cancer globally while encouraging women to go for “early screening” for cervical cancer in order to increase their chances of surviving the deadly disease.
“It’s very important for the American people and the American Congress to understand that as a result of their compassion, millions now live who wouldn’t have. Great progress has been made on HIV/AIDS.
“One reason why, is that the governments in Africa have taken the issue very seriously and have been passionate partners. In this country (Namibia), mother-to-child transmission efforts have been very successful. Babies are being born without HIV/AIDS and older folks are being screened and treated,” said Bush, whose visit included stops at the State House and a local hospital as well as breakfast at one of the upmarket eateries in Windhoek.
“My point is, the American people and the American Congress are aware that these governments (African states) are not capable at this point of funding these programmes completely on their own,” stressed Bush.
In addition, the former US head of state encouraged younger Namibian men to get screened and treated for HIV/AIDS. Bush further applauded First Lady Monica Geingos for her efforts and advocacy in addressing issues that affect women and children in Namibia. Furthermore, Bush pointed out that it was disappointing to learn of the number of women who were “needlessly” dying of cervical cancer.
“Many women who were safe from HIV were needlessly dying of cervical cancer. Ninety percent of the women that are being treated [of cancer] had HIV. “Think about it; that people could be safe from AIDS and die of a disease that can be detected and treated relatively easily so long as the women are screened early.”
Bush in Namibia
The Bush family are on a visit, which is focused on improving women and girls’ access to education, health care and economic opportunities and how Namibia is tackling these issues.
“Thank you (Geingos) for your wonderful hospitality and leadership to speak up to particularly young men that they have a responsibility to act like responsible men. And young men have a responsibility to get tested for HIV.
“HIV prevalence among young men across Africa is beginning to rise and the good news is that this government understands it and the First Lady understands it and is ready to speak about it,” noted Bush.
During the visit to the Windhoek Central Hospital this week, the Bushes visited a facility that was prepared and sponsored by the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.
The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an affiliate programme of the George W. Bush Institute, which fights breast and cervical cancer in the developing world. Since its founding in 2011, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon has screened over 20 000 women for cervical cancer, and given over 70 000 HPV vaccinations. The programme is an extension of PEPFAR, which Bush started during his first term in the White House to do the same sort of work with HIV and AIDS, and is a partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation as well as UNAIDS and the George W. Bush Institute.
The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an independent affiliate of the George W. Bush Institute, which leads coordinated efforts to save women and young girls from cancer in selected countries. The countries include Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Peru, Tanzania and Zambia.
Speaking to reporters shortly after visiting the Gynaecology Rapid Access Facility, which was sponsored by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, Bush said he was impressed by the state of the of the facility.
However, he said more still needed to be done to ensure that more lives are saved and without the support of the US government millions of people would suffer.
“Progress has been made, and a lot of it has resulted from governments’ willingness to spend money and good leadership.
But it’s important for the American people [to know], however, that our help is still needed.
“If we were to walk away now from PEPFAR, millions would suffer. Today we went to a clinic where babies born to moms who have HIV were HIV-free,” Bush said.
According to information availed to this paper, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the HIV and AIDS epidemic is becoming controlled in key African states.
According to PEPFAR’s fact sheet, 11.5 million people are on antiretroviral treatment, an increase from 50 000 individual in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“PEPFAR is supporting life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) for nearly 11.5 million people, exceeding the target of 11.4 million, and up from the 50 000 individuals who were receiving ART in Sub-Saharan Africa prior to when PEPFAR began,” reads the report.
Additionally, PEPFAR has prevented nearly 2 million babies from being born with HIV. Similarly, an addition 1.1 million children are on “life-saving” ART treatment which equates an increase of 97 percent since 2014.
Furthermore, PEPFAR has provided support for the training of 220 000 new health care workers to deliver HIV and other health services.
The three countries that the report is based on are Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
PEPFAR is a US government initiative, introduced by Bush to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world and is believed to be the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally.