The Ministry of health (MoH) is conducting a study to evaluate whether coordinated and strengthened community-based HIV prevention methods can help prevent the spread of the virus better than the current methods that are targeted at the individual.
The overall goal of the study is to determine whether providing communities with a package of coordinated and strengthened HIV prevention activities will impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic by significantly reducing new HIV infections at community level as well as whether the reduction will be cost effective. This is according to the MoH.
MoH Deputy Permanent Secretary, Shenaaz El-Halabi said they are hoping to reach more people through the study because it appears the facility based services approach is not working as well as expected, hence their new door- to-door strategy. She said their aim is to have up to 90% adults knowing their HIV status so they can follow the right routes to get treatment. She noted that their main focus is still prevention, and they are striving to get more than 80% HIV negative males circumcised.
She said they will be able to also do testing and counseling as well as safe male circumcision among others at people’s homes, a move that she said will help them meet their targets..
Botswana Harvard Partnership (BHP) Co-Director Dr Mompati Mmalane said the four year study is a collaboration between MoH, the U.S. Government and the Harvard School of Public Health through the BHP.
He said, “We have used Google maps to randomly choose participants for the study, so we will now be going house to house and we will do a sweep of the 30 communities once a year for the coming four years.”
He explained that though the programs they have chosen to use for the study are not necessarily new ones. The idea is to intensify their combined efforts for better results. He revealed that the 30 communities that would be participating were selected the Southern, Central and Northern regions of Botswana.
Botswana currently has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world. An estimated 300 000 people are reportedly living with HIV/AIDS in the country.