Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Surge in new HIV infections among Batswana youth

While the government has put multiple strategies to control the HIV/Aids epidemic, the high rate of new infections among the youth continues to wreck havoc.

According to the 2016 Botswana HIV and Aids estimates, 65 percent of adolescents and young people are newly infected with HIV each week, a majority of these being girls.

These revelations were made by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Ruth Maphorisa during the Mayor’s 90:90:90 Launch in Sowa Town last week. She said the new infections continue to give them sleepless nights.

“These statistics are disturbing as this age cohort constitutes 44 percent of the Botswana population,” Maphorisa said.

She further said that reducing new infections is a complex issue which requires continued education, expanded targeted testing, and prompt access to treatment and retention for viral suppression.

She implored the people of Sowatown and surrounding communities to close the tap of new HIV infection in their town.

“We must be ambitious and I am confident that by working together we can achieve this goal. This requires us to double our efforts as complacency has no room in carrying out our campaigns.

We need to create an environment where people can talk openly about HIV and Aids as a means to fight some pockets of stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS,” she said.

On a positive note, Maphorisa revealed that as part of the Treat All initiative, as many as 96 percent of those on ART are reported to be virally suppressed according to their recent program data. She said this is once more testimony to what they can achieve when they work together and complement each other as partners in the national HIV and AIDS response. She said they remain grateful to different technical and financial assistance from various partners and stakeholders.

“In the same vein let me implore and appeal to BOTASH and other companies that are resident here to extend a helping hand in supporting today’s initiative and other related programs,” she added.

Maphorisa said Botswana has invested heavily in various treatment and prevention strategies as well as programmes in the quest to combat the HIV challenge.

Some of the strategies include optimizing the combination prevention approach through antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother to child transmission, appropriate condom use and voluntary safe male circumcision which are key in minimizing the impact of the epidemic. She said whilst they are appreciate these breakthrough investments, it is important to bear in mind that they come at a cost that the country must sustain.

“This is against a backdrop of rising health care expenditure; and projected declines in donor support and other sources of revenue,” Maphorisa explained.

The Mayor’s 90:90:90 Campaign launch in Sowatown was the 6th following the other launches in Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng, Lobatse and Selibe Phikwe. The Campaigns started on the 1st of December 2014 when mayors across the world met and pledged to commit to ending AIDS epidemic by 2030, during the Paris Declaration.

Its target are for 90 percent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90 percent of those who know they are HIV positive to be on treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment to have the virus in their bodies suppressed by 2020. The event was held under the theme “Know your status”.


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