Botswana, on its journey towards Ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, has achieved many milestones. Eighty-six per cent of people living with HIV know their status; more than 84% of people living with HIV are on treatment and 81% of people on HIV treatment are virally suppressed. 90% of HIV-positive pregnant women receive treatment for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. These efforts averted 2 200 new HIV infections among children in 2017.
It is widely acknowledged that, through visionary leadership and bold action by government, development partners, civil society, religious and community leaders and people living with HIV, the country has emerged from a severe HIV epidemic towards an AIDS-free generation.
Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of Botswana, on 1 December 2018, World AIDS Day, alerted that, despite these successes, recently there has been a rise in new HIV infections, especially among young people. He warned that there is no place for complacency as AIDS is not yet over. “This is a day for us to introspect and reenergize our efforts. The recent indications of a surge in new HIV infections, especially among the youth, challenge us as a collective, to reflect and interrogate what we are not doing right,” said the President.
Mr Masisi called for renewed efforts in the HIV response and continued political commitment towards Ending AIDS. “Prevention will be prioritized through packaging targeted interventions for every segment of the population, utilizing community-based or client-oriented methods of service delivery and targeting geographical locations to ensure that services are directed to places of need,” he said.
The third National Strategic Framework for HIV 2018–2023 includes strategic shifts to Fast-Track the AIDS response. Its focus is on scaling-up high impact interventions and prioritizing populations that are at risk of HIV infection or more likely to be living with HIV, to ensure that no one is left behind. It recommends a combination HIV prevention approach, through the provision of biomedical, structural and behavioural change interventions.
“Botswana has been and remains a global trailblazer in responding to the AIDS epidemic,” said Jacinta Barrins, UN Resident Coordinator in Botswana. “However, the journey toward an AIDS-free Botswana continues. The recently launched UNAIDS 2018 World AIDS Report, Knowledge is Power, shows that knowing your HIV status and viral load is the gateway to both HIV prevention and treatment services.”
As part of the World AIDS Day commemoration, Mr Masisi, accompanied by the First Lady, Neo Masisi, visited a vibrant youth village, emphasizing the need for scaling up both HIV prevention and treatment services for young people, particularly adolescent girls and young women.