US Embassy pushes for HIV fight in Botswana

SOWA-TOWN: In order for Botswana to successfully fight the HIV epidemic, the leadership has to scale up effective prevention activities for key population which include sex workers and men who have sex with other men, United States of America (US) Embassy Charge d’ Affaires, Michael Murphy has advised.

“We have witnessed across the globe that political environments contributing to stigma and discrimination against key populations impede access to life savings, to this regard, Botswana is not an exemption. These kinds of high quality interventions do not implement themselves but rather require a strong health system that can play a critical part of sustaining Botswana’s response to the epidemic,” Murphy revealed last week at New Directions in Global Health workshop chaired by the US Embassy.

Furthermore, Murphy emphasised the need to advocate for the necessary legislation, regulations and structures that allow the private sector and civil society to play a large role in service delivery. “If we do this right, we will expand the reach of our high impact quality HIV interventions and reduce the financial burden on an already strained public health system,” Murphy added.
He said there is need for intervention, highlighting that despite the fact that the US government has invested P6 billion for control of the epidemic, 45 people in Botswana become infected with HIV every single day, which translates to about 16, 000 infections every year.

Murphy said for Botswana to realise the goal of zero new infections, the country has to invest in evidence based, high impact interventions and advocate for effective health policies. “We are still in a footrace between complacency and hope in the control of the HIV epidemic. So achieving epidemic control will require delivering the right thing in the right place at the right time,” he stressed, adding that they have an obligation to America’s taxpayers to ensure every dollar spent on the HIV response in Botswana is maximised to accelerate epidemic control.

Meanwhile, the Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS) 2013 indicates that Sowa Town is the most hit by the high HIV prevalence compared to other mining towns in the country. The study indicates that of the people who tested for HIV in the town, 71.5 per cent tested positive, and consequently 523 are on ARV therapy.