Reportage

Progress and challenges for Botswana

18 October 2007

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From left to right: Dr Tadatakai Yamada, Botswana
Minister of Health Professor Professor Sheila Tlou,
HE President Festus Mogae, Ms. Ann Veneman
and Dr Peter Piot.
In a joint mission, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot and Dr Tadatakai Yamada, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Programme visited Botswana to gain a shared perspective of the progress and challenges facing the country in its AIDS response.

With 25% of adults aged 15-49 estimated to be living with HIV, Botswana has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates. Prevalence rates are particularly high among pregnant women – estimated at more than 32%.

Despite these continuing challenges, the country has made significant progress in its response to AIDS. The first African country to embark on a programme of rolling out free antiretrovirals to all its citizens living with HIV in need, Botswana dedicates considerable domestic resources to HIV. In addition to treatment, it has made impressive strides in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission (down to 3%) and caring for children orphaned by AIDS. The country has also been a leader in expanding voluntary HIV testing and counselling – the offer of HIV testing has been routine in all health care settings since 2004.

A key catalyst for progress in Botswana’s AIDS response has been the establishment in 2000 of the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP). This innovative collaboration to improve access to needed HIV services is a country-led public/private development partnership between the Government of Botswana, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. and the Merck Company Foundation.

ACHAP was set up to support and enhance Botswana’s national HIV response, and works to scale up HIV prevention, expand access to HIV counselling and testing, support the national AIDS treatment programme, and to advocate for and empower communities and people living with HIV. ACHAP was instrumental in the establishment and roll-out in 2002 of Botswana’s national antiretroviral program, which as of July 2007 was providing treatment to more than 90,000 people. The partnership has also supported the training of over 7,000 health workers to improve and develop medical and management skills for AIDS programmes.

In their visit to the country, the joint mission met with HE President Festus Mogae and other leaders in Botswana’s national AIDS response. Dr. Piot commended the President, who chairs the National AIDS Council, for his leadership on AIDS, and underscored the commitment of UNAIDS and other partners to continue collaboration with Botswana. Dr Piot and Ms Veneman both pledged the United Nations’ continued support of Botswana’s HIV response. The delegation also visited hospitals and clinics in the districts of Francistown and Chobe, both of which are situated on high transit transport routes and have seen significant expansion over the last few years of voluntary HIV testing and counselling, treatment, care and support services.

“Botswana has shown an exceptional response to AIDS at the highest levels, and its progress in treatment access is an example to the world,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot. “This energy must now inspire a dramatic scale up of comprehensive HIV prevention programmes for a sustainable, long-term AIDS response.”


Links:

Visit the ACHAP web site
UNAIDS Botswana country profile

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