On Tuesday in Gaborone, the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) launched a survey on Tuberculosis and HIV AIDS armed with six specialized trucks to traverse the country collecting 172 samples from different age groups and households.
The samples will be tested for HIV and TB in a way that has never been done before. The data will be released in October through Statistics Botswana.
“Now on its 5th cycle, the Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS V) returns merged with the Tuberculosis Prevalence Survey. It is the first time the two surveys are merged in Botswana as well as globally,” said Madisa Mine of the National Health Laboratory.
He described the survey as a representative and population based. “It will examine the distribution of HIV in Botswana, assess the coverage and impact of HIV services at population level, measure HIV related risk behaviors and assess health seeking behavior for TB related symptoms in children among other things,” Madisa pointed out.
The said trucks have chest x-ray machines, and are equipped with TB and HIV testing centers on wheels. “Out of the 172 samples to be collected, 45 will be tested for HIV, 100 will be tested for both TB and HIV while the remaining 27 will be tested for TB. We will carry out household interviews, individual interviews with people aged 15 years and above, collect blood samples from infants who are six weeks and older as well as carry out Rapid HIV Testing,” explained Mine. Apart from the trucks, NACA has also deployed 300 staff members to ensure that the survey is carried out well.
“The survey staff include Lab Technicians, Data Clerks, Survey Coordinators, Data Managers and Radiologists,” he stated.
For his part Minister of Health and Wellness Alfred Madigele said the survey will be used to calibrate national estimates as well as give a better understanding of the country’s HIV distribution. “It will also give us an idea of behavioral trends in the general population,” he added.
Mine said NACA wants to cascade information about the survey to communities across the country. He urged Batswana to assist the teams from NACA with camping and TB sites and stations. He said the nation should expect the use of highly scientific devises such as mobile chest x-ray machines, gene expert machines and cards for TB software.
With local HIV prevalence incidence estimated at 18.5 per cent and 1.35 per cent respectively, the HIV pandemic is a long way from over. Botswana has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates. NACA is pinning its hopes on the landmark survey to bring the country closer to ending the scourge.