A new industry-funded healthcare plan is to be launched in Namibia in order to help HIV/AIDS patients gain access to life-saving therapies. Currently, treatment is so expensive that patients on medical aid funds are forced to pay for HIV/AIDS drugs out of their own pockets.

The new system will target corporate entities with large workforces. A number of medical aid funds in the country have already pledged to transfer the HIV/AIDS medical coverage of their members -- accounting for some 33,000 people -- to the industry fund.

These people will have to pay a membership contribution of NAD20 (US$3.19) to join the new fund, which it is hoped will be able to harness the buying power of the private sector to secure lower-priced medication and treatment. Meanwhile, people with no current medical aid or benefits will be able to join for the higher fee of NAD30 (US$4.79). However, there is hope that this could be subsidised by European Union (EU) donor funds.