With a little over three decades that Batswana have been fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS it is safe to say that there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The statistics remain shockingly high to say the least but the survey conducted by United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) indicates that through the different reforms applied over the years the numbers of preventable HIV and AIDS related deaths have continued to steadily decline.
At a recent National Stake Holders Forum on Effective HIV Programming for Adolescents and Young people held in Mahalapye, Charles Birungu, Fast Track advisor for UNAIDS explained that despite the fact that there were approximately 360,000 people living with HIV in 2016 having a total of approximately 10,000 new infections, there has been a significant decline in new infections. Statistics also indicate an increase in the number of people living with HIV who are on anti retroviral therapy.
Birungu further indicated that of the 10,000 new infections recorded in 2016, 5200 of them are women aged between 15 and 49 with 4300 men of the same age group. This means a quarter of all new infections fall within the adolescent and young women category.
The presentation also indicated that despite these new infections rate, only 50% of young people aged between 10 and 24 living with HIV do not have access to treatment.
The variables listed as contributing factors towards the prevalence rate of HIV in adolescents and young people are sexual violence, the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and their overall sexual behavior which is said to debut as early as the age of 13.
According to Chirungu, Botswana has established herself as a global trailblazer showing that though they are struggling in the prevention front they were doing very well on the treatment side.
When giving the keynote address acting Director of Public Health Veronica Leburu stated that, “We are hard hit by social ills in our country. Our young people are perishing under our care; among the ills and the core of it all is early sexual debut, multiple concurrent partners and having sex for money and gifts.”
Leburu further stated that the ministry had succeeded in the prevention from mother to child transmission (PMTCT) program as now babies are born HIV free despite their mother’s status. Leburu said it was imperative to invest in the adolescent and young people group by engaging effectively with them and providing effective intervention packages.