‘LET COMMUNITIES LEAD’
This year’s World AIDS Day focussed on efforts of communities in HIV responses Botswana on the right track to end AIDS as a public threat by 2030
Botswana is optimistic about ending AIDS as a public health threat by the year 2030. Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane said during the commemoration of World AIDS Day in Nata this past Friday.
The commemoration was this year held under the theme, ’Let communities lead’. Tsogwane said that this theme was fitting as it places emphasis on the sustainability of any country’s response to the HIV pandemic. He said that it is a call drawing attention to what has seemingly been the work done by communities throughout the years of HIV response.
“This theme reminds us that without the involvement of communities, success in the fight against pandemics such as HIV and AIDS may become too difficult to realise,” he said.
Tsogwane further said that as a country faced with a big challenge of fighting against HIV and AIDS, Botswana takes pride in having emerged from one of the HIV high burdened countries, to join those nearing epidemic control.
He reiterated that it can never go unnoticed is that the communities have been the backbone of the fight against HIV and AIDS from the early days of the response, which he said fully aligns with the theme. Botswana has gained a lot of experience in the management of HIV and AIDS, starting from 1985 when the first case of a person with HIV was recorded. Tsogwane emphasized that the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA), with the technical and financial support of government development partners, conducted the fifth Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS V) in 2021.
The results of this survey show that the national HIV prevalence among the country’s adult population aged between 15 and 64 years is 20.8 percent, which translates to approximately 329 000 adults living with HIV. On the other hand, the rate at which people contract new HIV infection was estimated to be at 0.2 percent, which is approximately 2 200 cases of new HIV infections per year among adults.
Tsogwane therefore highlighted that with the cooperation between the communities and the government to end AIDS, Botswana is a step ahead to achieving this goal. “It is not in doubt that with communities taking the lead of the fight against HIV and AIDS, our country will be assured of ending AIDS as a public health threat by the year 2030,” he said.
The results from the same BAIS V survey show that for the first time at a national level among adults aged 15 to 64 years, Botswana has attained and exceeded the UNAIDS global targets of 95-95-95 set as a fast-track strategy to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic by the year 2025.
Accordingly, 95 percent of people living with HIV in Botswana are aware of their positive status, with 98 percent of those aware of their status being on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), while 98 percent of those on ART having achieved viral load suppression.
Further interrogation of these results show that men are lagging on the first 95, with only 93 percent of them being aware of their HIV positive status. “One other area where we need to focus on as a country is that of the Adolescents and Young People aged between 15 and 24 years,” said Tsogwane.
He also highlighted that Botswana’s success story in the fight against HIV and AIDS is not complete without appreciating the meaningful part played by partners in the response, both local and international. “The provision of HIV services entails reaching out to all corners of the country, and without the participation of our Civil Society Organisations it could not have been possible to reach everyone,” he said.