Friday, October 23, 2020

Like HIV, Coronavirus may never disappear- WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Coronavirus pandemic may be here to stay. As the race to come up with a vaccine seems nowhere near the finish line and cases keep multiplying, there seems to be no end in sight for COVID-19.

WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan told international media this week that COVID-19 could be following the HIV route.

“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and it may never go away. HIV hasn’t gone away. I’m not comparing the two diseases but I think it is important that we’re realistic. I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear,” Ryan said this week.

He said for the world to have a shot at eliminating COVID-19 vaccine will have to be available, highly effective, be made available to everyone across the world. “This disease may settle into a long-term problem or it may not.”

By the time of going to press the world was standing at 4,37 million  confirmed cases of the virus with 1,56 million recoveries and 298,000 deaths.

Botswana stood at 24 confirmed cases, 17 recoveries and a single casualty.

Botswana was one of the first African countries to introduce robust proactive measures to curb the spread of the virus. The relatively low number of cases, especially given the spread of the virus in neighboring South Africa, is testament to Botswana’s impressive efforts in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

For the country, the arrival of COVID-19 was a case of ‘once bitten twice shy’. The country is no stranger to viral epidemics, having been one of the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Botswana recorded its first case of HIV/AIDS in 1985. By early 2000s HIV cases had reached a staggering 350,000 with an estimated average adult prevalence of over 37 percent.

Until the introduction of the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) almost two decades following the first case, a positive HIV diagnosis was practically a death sentence.

Botswana was one of the first countries sin Africa to introduce a national antiretroviral therapy programme. As a way to fight the spread of the disease Botswana also introduced routine HIV testing in hospitals by 2003. National guidelines for voluntary counselling and testing were developed.

ARV’s were provided free of charge at government hospitals, positively influencing the drive for voluntary counselling and testing.

National treatment guidelines were developed in line with international standards.

The country has committed to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by the year 2030. Botswana has made significant progress in response to the HIV pandemic. The government now provides immediate treatment for people who test positive for HIV.

The country now faces another invisible enemy in COVID-19. Botswana hopes to draw from the lessons learnt from HIV/AIDS as the country faces a new enemy. Unlike HIV, treatment for Coronavirus has yet to arrive. Until then, the government is working tirelessly to keep the virus at bay. As the number of active cases continues to drop with recoveries, the government looks to ease the current lockdown with the hope to open again for business. Travelers from South Africa however continue to pose a serious threat to the current preventative efforts.

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