The United States government has announced a new strategy, coupled with funding, to scale up HIV/AIDS interventions in Botswana.
The acting Director for the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Jan Moore, announced a new strategy on Creating an AIDS-Free Generation while on a five-day visit to the country to discuss collaboration on the strategy.
That strategy, according to Moore, will see the US government availing funding to increase service provision, scaling up existing HIV/AIDS interventions and evaluating the effectiveness of such interventions.
Moore met officials from the Ministry of Health and the Botswana Harvard Project to discuss collaboration on the new project.
“There are still new infections. We will be trying to assist the Botswana CDC from our headquarters in Atlanta. The strategy depends on the nature of the epidemic and the capacity of a country,” said Moore.
Asked if scaling up HIV/AIDS interventions would include the contentious proposition that condoms must be availed to male prisoners, Moore said the U.S government does not have a position to provide prisoners with condoms, saying governments will have to take that decision.
Former President Festus Mogae whose presidency was marked by his unwavering commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS is one of the proponents of the provision of condoms in prisons.
“The U.S. Government and President Obama underscore the reality that we are now in a time when it is possible to beat this disease, drastically reduce new HIV infections, and create an AIDS-free generation with virtually no children born with HIV infection and adults living successfully with HIV and accelerated declines in HIV incidence,” said Moore.
She added that the CDC strategy entails implementation of efficacious HIV prevention interventions focussing on anti antiretroviral therapy (treatment) as prevention, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), voluntary medical male circumcision, HIV counselling & testing and correct and consistent condom usage.
“These areas of focus are the most effective interventions for a generalised epidemic,” she said.
U.S President Barack Obama, together with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has announced ambitious global targets on World AIDS Day 2012.The Obama administration wants to see 6 million people worldwide on antiretroviral Treatment by the end of 2013, an additional Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) roll-out to 1.5 million HIV positive pregnant women on ART or prophylaxis by the end of 2013 and an additional 4.7 million male circumcisions by the end of the same year.
According to Moore, for Botswana the goal is to cut the rate of new HIV infections in half by 2016.
Specifically, for the Combination Prevention Study (2012-2016). She hailed Botswana for having made huge progress in HIV/AIDS testing and counselling.
“The primary objective is to compare adult HIV rate of new infections in communities receiving a standard level of HIV prevention services to the intervention communities where there is a rapid scale-up of antiretroviral therapy, PMTCT, voluntary medical male circumcision, and HIV counselling & testing,” according to Moore.
“The Combination Prevention Study is critical because it will inform us of what the effect or impact can be when these intervention methods are offered in combination. The results could transform the way HIV services are provided and managed,” she said.