President Ian Khama said on Monday that the country’s progress made in the fight against the HIV epidemic has been a challenge and scaling down or withdrawal of support by development partners and donor agencies will reverse the gains that the country has achieved in the last 28 years.
Speaking at the commemoration of World AIDS Day on Monday in Ramotswa village, Khama urged donor agencies that are withdrawing their technical and financial support to reconsider their stance. ┬á
While he acknowledged the significant success in the fight against the epidemic and the support from the donors and development partners, Khama said should the donor agencies withdraw their financial and technical support for which Botswana remains grateful, the gains attained in the war against HIV are likely to be reversed.
He said Botswana can be proud of its achievement for recording an estimated 71 percent decline of HIV incidence between 2001 and 2011.
“While some of you are scaling down support or withdrawing support, I wish to indicate that the figures I have just shared indicate that we are far yet so near,” he said, in appealing to donor agencies to reconsider.
Khama said Botswana needs the continued support of development partners and donor agencies lest the country slips and loses the gains it has made thus far.
“I sincerely believe that with your collective support and renewed energies and that or our civil society organisations, the private sector, the faith sector, traditional and political leadership and our communities, a world without HIV is a real possibility,” he said.
Khama also appealed to the business community, non-governmental organisations and the religious sector to continue working with government in this endeavour. Khama added that government “with the help of you is defining the best in implementing the new Public Health Act and the National AIDS Policy, both passed by Parliament just recently”.
He said with the introduction of the long awaited ‘Combination Prevention’ initiative, the nation has a reason to be hopeful.
President Khama also emphasised that some of his projects are part of his administration to fight the HIV epidemic.
He said as the clock ticks towards 2016, it was imperative that the government leaves no stone unturned in coming up with interventions that will make a difference.
“At structural level, we have accelerated our socio economic interventions to deal with poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and inequality,” he said.
These conditions which government is tackling through various programs, Khama said have a bearing on the AIDS epidemic.
Khama said though it has been a long and painful journey as witnessed by loss of family members and friends, “we have steadfastly overcome the stigma die to heightened awareness campaigns, various AIDS interventions and a successful treatment programme.”
The President added that, “In 2001 we were losing close to 21000 people annually due to AIDS but now that figure has since plummeted to 5┬á700 in 2012, representing a 73 percent decline.”
This, Khama said, means that with full treatment access to all who are eligible combined with personal responsibility for one’ own health, the country can achieve “Zero Aids related Deaths” 2016.
He said the rate of pregnant women who received ARV to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV has reached a high of 96 percent, giving hope for elimination of mother to child transmission.