Over the past two years, HIV patients at the harbour town complained to the media regarding the clinic, saying it promotes stigma, and requested that its isolation be discontinued.

People who spoke to Nampa last year said their status is being exposed to the public by having a separate clinic where they collect their medication.

“It is not difficult for someone to tell I am HIV positive because they see me every month standing in the queue at the HIV clinic. Why can’t we just collect medicine at one clinic, just like any other patient?” asked one resident.

Approached for comment at Swakopmund on Thursday, health minister Bernard Haufiku said a directive was issued already in 2015 to integrate such facilities across the country.

He said he does not even understand why such facilities existed in the first place, because to him, this promotes stigma.

“That is not how it is supposed to be. I do not know why the clinic at Kuisebmond is still operational; maybe it is the implementation issue. But a directive was issued and repeated again in 2016.”

The minister said he gave a similar order for the Elavi clinic in the Oshivelo area, where they also had a separate facility with a sign reading ‘HIV Clinic’ on the door.

“I would not want to walk into something that reads HIV on the door when everyone is watching. I know we are supposed to be open about the pandemic, but it is human nature to feel uncomfortable about some things,” he added.

Haufiku stressed that there should only be one clinic where all patients walk in and get their medicines, without anybody feeling the public or their friends knowing what disease they have.

Even condoms should not be handed out to people in public just like that. They need to be placed where those who do not want to be seen taking them can freely do, he said.

“Instead of placing them at the reception, maybe place them in the toilet or somewhere. In my view, those are bedroom secrets, and should be treated as such for those who prefer,” Haufiku noted.

The minister was on a two-day outreach programme in Erongo, which started last Wednesday.

It is aimed at better equipping medical staff in the region, especially doctors, with the skills to handle patients.
– Nampa