Mogae Discusses Botswana’s Efforts to Stem HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Speaking yesterday at the National Press Club, Botswana President Festus Mogae admitted he is "scared" for his nation, the world's worst HIV-infected country with an infection rate of 36.8% among adults aged 15 to 49, the Boston Globe reports. "[W]e are frightened. We don't know what will happen," he said. He added, however, that Botswanans "intend to survive. That is why we need assistance." Botswana, which had been an "economic and political success story" prior to the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, now finds its survival "threatened," the Globe reports. AIDS has "sucked from us our pride and our achievements," leaving behind a "national sadness," Mogae said. But the nation, seen as a "key battleground" in the fight against the disease, has recently taken steps to initiate what it hopes will be the first nationwide HIV treatment program in sub-Saharan Africa. The government hopes to begin dispensing antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, assisted by a team of Harvard University experts that includes Harvard AIDS Institute Chair Myron "Max" Essex. Funded by a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program will also include initiatives to stop vertical transmission, start HIV vaccine trials and expand a laboratory. Debswana Diamond, Botswana's largest employer, also has announced it will provide treatment for its HIV-positive employees. However, Mogae worries that these efforts may not be "fast enough or reach enough people." Of an estimated 300,000 infected people in the country, only about 30,000 know their status. "We are determined, but our national mood is sad, very sad," he said (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 6/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.