Bots Scores Big in HIV Fight

Gaborone – Botswana has achieved good results through its ARV programme and other interventions like community home-based care and prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and has reason to believe that an AIDS-free generation is possible.
Reports indicate that Botswana’s HIV/AIDS mother-to-child transmission rate has dropped from 40 percent to three percent and ARV uptake has gone up to 95 percent, with a national incidence rate of one percent projected in 2011.
Vice President, Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe, shared these sentiments when he officially opened the National AIDS Council (NAC) meeting in Gaborone recently.
Seeming plummeting infections among the youth further cement such optimism, he said.
Citing the UNAIDS State of the Epidemic Global Report, VP Kedikilwe said in terms of the magnitude of change in HIV infection rates, Botswana has one of the highest changes in Africa.
He observed that between 2001 and 2011, the percentage drop in HIV incidence was 71, second to Malawi with 72, while Swaziland and Kenya recorded 37 and 32, respectively.
The prevalence of HIV among 15-19-year-old pregnant women dropped from 22.8 percent in 2003 to 10 percent in 2011, while at national population level, HIV prevalence dropped from 6.5 percent in 2004 to 3.7 percent.
As for AIDS-related deaths, Botswana recorded the highest drop of 71, followed by Rwanda with 68 percent and Zimbabwe at 61 percent. South Africa recorded a 27 percent drop during the same period, VP Kedikilwe said.
VP Kedikilwe has, however, expressed concern over the Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance Survey findings that a good number of students admitted to having used drugs such as snuff, ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.
The Vice President said only 55 percent of the surveyed students reported to have used a condom the first time they had sexual intercourse.
He urged council members to reflect on these issues and fight the challenges as they have potential to reverse the gains made so far.
“The global world has expressed concern about the disparity between funding devoted to HIV and AIDS and the magnitude of the epidemic,” said the Vice President.
He added that the HIV budget that stands at R1.2 billion continues to be a developmental challenge, adding that it calls “us to tighten our belts and use these resources efficiently and wisely”.
VP Kedikilwe said there is need to bridge the gap between exorbitant programme inputs and actual programme outcomes and to strengthen the efficiency with which more is done with less.
Meanwhile, the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) said in a statement that at the end of July 2013, Batswana would know whether their efforts in fighting HIV and AIDS are bearing fruits when the preliminary results of the on-going fourth Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS) are released.
The survey would, among other things, update current information on the behavioural patterns of the populations aged 10-64 years and the HIV prevalence and incidence rates among those aged six weeks through to 64 at national, district and sub-district level.
The fieldwork for the survey, which started on January 22, 2013, is due for completion on April 24.
According to the data quality control team comprising officers from the NACA and Statistics Botswana, the public is participating in the survey in large numbers.
The team says many Batswana have been volunteering for HIV testing during the survey, including those who have not been sampled.
Twenty-nine teams comprising six enumerators, one supervisor and three drivers per team are currently in the field collecting data as well as testing the sampled population for HIV.
Each team is expected to cover between 10 and 11 enumeration areas during the survey and there are 301 enumeration areas to be covered.
The fourth BAIS has employed a number of innovations including the use of tablets to replace the paper questionnaires eliminating the delays in data entry from paper to questionnaire.
The survey will also avail test results to the people who participated in the survey and wishing to know their results, thereby contributing to the national goal of eliminating new HIV infections by 2016.
Among others, the survey is expected to provide current national HIV estimates among the population aged six weeks through 64 years.
It will further provide a comparison between HIV rate, behaviour, knowledge, attitude, poverty and cultural factors that are associated with the epidemic with estimates derived from previous surveys.
The information from BAIS IV will be used for continuous strategic prevention and national HIV programme planning and guide future HIV and AIDS research.

May 2013
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