Botswana is on the cusp of being one of the first countries in Africa to end the AIDS epidemic, says the American Ambassador to Botswana, Mr Earl Miller. Speaking during the official opening of the New Directions in Global Health in Serowe recently, he said if the country could do the right thing at the right time, the AIDS epidemic could have been defeated.
“You are going to hear evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt that putting all HIV positive people on treatment, regardless of their CD4 count, will put us on the right path to epidemic control,” Mr Miller said.
He noted that earlier this month the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that countries move to ‘Test and Start’ in order to get more people on treatment faster and save more lives. The US Ambassador to Botswana opined that it would take a “bold leadership from the government of Botswana to implement the WHO recommendation.”
Amongst a host of the right things to do is accelerated safe male circumcision which was jointly launched in August by the Ministry of Health and the US government. The intervention was supported by the US government with US$5 million, covering 12 districts with the aim of conducting 35 000 circumcisions among men aged between15-29 years in six months.
The right places refer to focusing on the most vulnerable population especially the adolescent and young women. He also revealed that sex workers were a sub group mostly affected by HIV in Botswana which stands at 60 per cent. Though he enumerated the gains that Botswana has so far achieved, the American ambassador warned that, “if we become complacent we will lose focus in our effort to control the HIV epidemic, the tremendous gains we have achieved so far will unravel.”
Such gains include free anti-retroviral drugs, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) and the decrease in new infections. Mr Miller revealed that despite all the efforts geared towards ending the scourge, every single day in Botswana about 25 people become infected with HIV.