The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Judith Nwako, has encouraged migrant workers at the Maun branch of the Department of Building and Electrical Services (DBES) to desist from engaging in sexual relationships within communities they frequently visit on work commitments as this will increase the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Nwako made this call at a recent voluntary counseling and testing campaign for DBES staff, most of whom spend their time away from their duty stations for an extended period of time.
Classified under this group of workers are field officers, construction workers, maintenance workers, to mention but a few, whom she said should always be on alert as their nature of work automatically makes them vulnerable to the disease and any other social ills which they may be or may not be aware of.
The campaigns, which started at Jwaneng DBES depot, are funded by the Botswana National HIV/AIDS Prevention Support Project (BNAPS) and commenced in the last financial year 2012/2013. A total of twenty one depots countrywide have already been grouped and sensitized on a series of issues regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and management.
“While a lot of our employees did not go for testing as is voluntary, a total of 368 were addressed on this matter and other related issues, and out of this number 166 tested for HIV. It is therefore worth noting that the indicated numbers of those who tested shows that we need to continue encouraging each other to go for testing, as knowing their status will enable them to access antiretroviral therapy while time still permits,” said Nwako. “Studies have shown that Batswana are faced with the challenge of low male involvement in HIV/AIDS interventions, while they also seem to have control over sexual matters and, as a result, bully their partners into having unprotected sex, no wonder the high numbers of women dying or living with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
The Botswana HIV/AIDS impact survey and the National Operational Plan for HIV/AIDS shows that prevalence among the general population is at 17.6 percent, which translates to approximately 316,000 people living with HIV infection.
HIV prevalence among women is at 20.4 percent, while that of men is 14.2 percent and 2.9 percent for cases of new infections.
Nwako said it is of paramount importance that members of staff meet regularly so that issues surrounding any form of health are discussed and for their staff to be shown the need to lead normal and responsible lives.
She urged men, mainly, to protect and provide for their families, adding that risky sexual behavior will never make them better people as it has become apparent that they believe it is a must that they have sexual partners in the areas that they are expected to undertake their work assignments.
Speaking at the same event was HIV/AIDS coordinator at MIST, Kgaotsang Kamwi, who said MIST is very much concerned about the health and welfare of its employees, hence the many health campaigns that promote safe sexual behavior. She said the onus is on them to change and to see things in perspective because their laxity may impact on their families, as it will mean they carry the burden of taking care of them, should they test positive and later fall sick.
She said the other setback is the unnecessary alcohol consumption by some men, as they never think of the consequences associated to casual sex, which is why the ministry also strives to promote secondary abstinence for adults as well as to encourage faithful and correct and consistent condom use at or outside the work place.