Thursday, October 28, 2021

World AIDS Day: The scourge still refuses to go

On December 1, 2016, Batswana alongside the rest of the universe will commemorate World’s 28th AIDS Day since its inception in 1988.

Despite the obvious and visible strides that have already been made to combat this global pandemic, National Aids Coordinating Agency Director Richard Mat hare indicated recently at a media briefing that the decline in new infections among adults has come to a halt. 

He further stated that new infections have started rising both internationally and regionally, a development which is drastically regressing the efforts made by UNAIDS to have ended AIDS by the year 2030 and reducing new infection rates to zero thus meaning that more effort needs to be put into this fight. 

Not to be left behind in this fast paced hashtag era, the theme this year will be Hands up for #HIVPREVENTION.  When explaining this theme and concept further, Matlhare stated that on the days building up to the commemoration, during and after, people across the globe will be encouraged to write a message on their palms of how they think will be innovative ways of reducing infections all geared towards ending AIDS by 2030. 

Pictures of their palms raised to their faces will then be taken and posted all over various mainstream and social media platforms. “This is what we as a country think should be done to end AIDS by 2030,” said Matlhare, “Basically a pool of innovative ideas to make a difference.

The Director of the Department of HIV and AIDS at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Chipo Petlo, gave a national overview of the programmes that have been put in place to deal with the scourge which have been categorised into two; the prevention category and the care and support category.

Under the prevention category is the safe male circumcision (SMC), behavioural change and the counselling and testing programmes. 

The care and support programmes include, the antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), Home Based and Palliative Care and the sexually transmitted diseases section.

Petlo further stated that their aim is to have 90 percent of people in Botswana know their status and those who are HIV positive should be on treatment with an undetectable and suppressed viral load. Petlo also stated that there are currently 400 000 HIV positive people in Botswana and only 200,000 are on treatment, these figures should increase after President Ian Khama  launched a “Treat All” campaign mid this year.  Regarding the SMC the national target was 385 000 males circumcised. However, the current figures stand at only 169 537.  Under the PMTCT programme statistics indicate that that there are 43 000 annual deliveries and 14, 00 of the mothers are infected. 

According to the recorded prevalence and incidence rates recorded infection from mother to child has drastically dropped from 2 percent which ideally according to Petlo should be zero percent.

UNAIDS  Ambassador to Botswana Gansun explained that by ending AIDS by 2030 they mean that AIDS will no longer be a major public health concern. Batswana are urged to convene at the Gaborone Secondary School (GSS) grounds on December 1 to commemorate this year’s International World Aids Day and participate in the #HIVPREVENTION on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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