THERE ARE OVER 400 000 PEOPLE IN BOTSWANA LIVING WITH HIV AND AT LEAST 10 000 NEW INFECTIONS ANNUALLY WITH 27 NEW INFECTIONS DAILY
Let just let that sink in
Out of this 400 000, by the end of February, the Ministry of Health and Welfare recorded 302 453 patients were on ARV treatment, which gives a total of 75 percent of the projected 403 326 patients eligible for treatment.
Through the United States of America initiative President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), the government of Botswana is in the process of the “Cure All” campaign which was officially launched in June last year.
In a presentation made to the media regarding Treat All, Dr Nkomo from the Ministry of Health and Welfare at Mmokolodi earlier this week explained that, “Clinical Trial 052 (Botswana based data) showed a 93 percent reduction in HIV transmission with the initiation of early ART”. He further stated that: “The study also demonstrated a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission in sero-discordant couples with early initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy.”
In the past an HIV person had to wait for their CD4 count to drop as low as 200 before they could start getting treatment, with the Treat All campaign there is no waiting period and once a person is diagnosed HIV positive they start treatment immediately.
This programme is not going to come cheap and Nkomo explained that they were anticipating an initial front loading in terms of expenditure but due to the immense suppression of the viral load there will be less spent opportunist diseases since the immune system will not be compromised. There will also be a reduction in new infections and the burden of the AIDS related deaths will be reduced.
Alongside the Treat All campaign there will be other continuing initiatives like the safe male circumcision prevention of mother to child transmission to complement it. Botswana has also adopted Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP specifically targeted at key populations (men who have sex with, female sex workers and adolescent girls) and mismatched couples and are working on the implementation modalities, however it is already available at private practices.
Ambassador of the United States of America to Botswana Earl Miller explained that PEPFAR this year contributed $48 million in support of Botswana’s national HIV response and will be contributing $69 million next year.
Towards the Treat All campaign, Miller stated that they would give out $21 million.
Miller went on to appeal to the media to help them meet the targets of reducing HIV by dedicating space and airtime in the media houses and be bold about the campaign.
People around the country are still unaware of this campaign and that there is a lot of spade work to be done.