HIV prevalence in Botswana is higher amongst married males; estimated at 26.3 percent compared to females at 18.7%, a report released by Statistics Botswana and the Ministry of Health has revealed.
Titled, ‘BAIS IV 2013 BOTSWANA AIDS IMPACT SURVEY ‘, the report also indicates that prevalence is also higher among never married females at 22.0 percent compared to their male counterparts (12.6 percent). Prevalence rates are similar for males and females in cohabiting/living together relationships (34 percent).
“HIV prevalence is also highest among females who are separated from their spouses (51.2%) compared to males who are separated (14.9 percent). It is also noticeably higher among divorced females (34.5 percent) compared to their male counterparts (27.8 percent). In addition, it was observed that HIV prevalence was marginally higher among widowers (33.6 percent) compared to widows (22.8 percent).”
The report however points out that, “these results need to be interpreted with caution because analysis of un-weighted data reviewed that there were just 10 males separated, of which 3 were HIV positive. Also, there were only 15 women separated, of which 8 were HIV positive. Considering that this is national data, the numbers are too small to draw any useful inference. The number of HIV positive divorcees among males and females were only 6/25 and 11/40 respectively.”
Be that as it may, the Resident Director for UNAIDS, Dr Gang Sun explained in an interview that Botswana’s situation is unfortunate as the rate at which the economy of the country is recovering from recession is less than the prevalence of HIV.
His comments are informed by the report’s revelation that, “The BAIS IV survey estimated a national prevalence rate of 18.5 percent compared to 17.6 percent in BAIS III among population aged 18 months and above. Among the same population HIV incidence rate (adjusted) was estimated at 1.35 percent compared to 1.45 per cent in 2008. Using the Recent Infection Testing Algorithm (RITA) method to estimate the crude incidence, crude incidence rate was estimated at 2.61% in BAIS IV compared to 2.7% in BAIS III. (N.B: when not using RITA crude incidence in BAIS III was estimated at 2.9% compared to 2.41 in BAIS IV)”
Furthermore the report shows that, “Early sexual debut was found to be 4.4 percent for men and women aged 15-24 who had sexual intercourse before the age of 15 years compared to BAIS III in which it was 4 percent. The percentage for both sexes aged 15-49 who had multiple concurrent sexual partners in the last 12 months was found to be 15.8 percent. Amongst the same population 81.9 percent reported having used a condom during the last sexual intercourse.”
Persons aged 15-49 years showed accepting attitudes towards people living with HIV and AIDS. An overwhelming, 96.8 percent responded in the affirmative when asked whether they would share a meal or buy vegetables from a person living with HIV. Discriminatory attitudes were predominant among males, at 5 percent compared to females at 2.7 percent on the same questions. Furthermore, the younger age groups showed discriminatory attitudes than older age groups, males and females (15-19 years) at 9 and 3.9 percent respectively; compared to 3 percent (males) and 2.4 percent for females for those aged 25-49 years.
Dr Sun said there was need to put into action issues that have been agreed upon by the country and other countries. He said there seemed to be tolerance of having multi-concurrent partners and young people grow up finding this being condoned.
“It is important that children are taught at tender age not to engage in sexual activity while young and to stick to one partner and persistently condomize. Males should not boast of having many partners because they are economically well off. They should respect their partners and refrain from violence. Females should not indulge in using shortcuts to get money,” said Dr Sun.