A paper from the University of Colorado in the United states, aimed at answering the question “Why are HIV rates in Botswana so High?” says cultural and economic factors are responsible for high HIV rates in the country.
The paper argues that the HIV epidemic in Botswana is a public health crisis that has dramatically affected the people of Botswana.
The paper compares Botswana to Uganda; a sub-Saharan African success story in terms of HIV and concludes that Botswana has many short comings.
Cultural norms such as oppressive gender norms, a lack of knowledge surrounding the HIV virus, and a lack of sex education contribute to why Botswana has been unable to confront this serious epidemic, says the paper.
Uganda has been far more successful in engaging women in politics and the work force than Botswana.
“Sex education and information surrounding safe sex practices are far better distributed and understood in Uganda than in Botswana. Mandatory sex education programs for the Ugandan youth have been very useful in promoting awareness and comprehension. The taboo nature of sex in Botswana creates a norm of secrecy, resulting in a young population that is uninformed about safe sex practices and disease contraction,” the paper argues.
The issue of unequal gender norms also emerges as prominent.
The paper argues that economic inequality between genders in Botswana is responsible for transactional sex which increases the spread of HIV.
“Because women are far less engaged in the professional sector than their male counterparts, many women feel reliant on the financial support of men. In Uganda, because women play an active role in the professional and political realms, they are able to feel empowered and avoid reliance upon a man for financial stability. Female politicians also have a vested interest in providing services that are beneficial for the health of other women. Women may remain an at risk group for HIV in Botswana until unequal gender norms in the nation are confronted,” the paper argues. The paper further dismissed three common arguments used to explain high HIV rates; laws and stigma against homosexuality, general poverty, and biology.
“While these arguments are commonly presented as explanations for high HIV rates in sub-Saharan Africa, they each invoke glaring flaws. Biased and inaccurate data surrounding homosexuality in the region renders any explanation of this sort unsound. I argue that anti-homosexuality norms are very prominent throughout nearly the entirety of the region, and cannot be directly correlated to HIV rates. Data would seem to indicate that wealthier people are actually more at risk of HIV within a nation and that wealthier nations may have higher HIV rates, disproving the previously assumed stance that poverty and high HIV rates must be positively correlated,” the paper further reads.
While certain different subtypes of HIV might have different levels of pathogenicity the paper argues that this has no effect on the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.