Kenyan, Botswanan Leaders Call HIV/AIDS Greatest Threat to Economic Development
Calling HIV/AIDS the "greatest challenge Botswana has faced," President Festus Mogae on Tuesday said that the disease has drained "substantial resources" away from development initiatives and "threatens the country with annihilation," the Financial Times reports. An estimated 38% of Botswanan adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are thought to have HIV, giving the nation the highest infection rate in the world. But despite government efforts to counter the disease, the epidemic is "not abating," Mogae said. The Bank of Botswana has forecasted that the country's economic growth will slow from 9% in 2001 to just 5% this year, and Linah Mohohlo, the bank's governor, predicted that the government's increased health care spending this year will drive up inflation rates to 6% or higher. A government report released last year predicted that Botswana's economic output will fall by a total of 1.5% over the next 25 years and that health expenditures will triple over the next decade because of HIV/AIDS. Universal access to antiretroviral drugs via the public health system has accounted for the country's largest health expenditure. Botswana, which is "one of Africa's best performing and most politically stable countries," hopes to establish four antiretroviral drug distribution centers and to treat 19,000 HIV-positive people by the end of the year. "The antiretroviral program is the most expensive health project. But it's an element we can't do without," Health Minister Joy Phumaphi, said, adding, "We can't do prevention without treatment and care" (Lamont, Financial Times, 4/17).
Not Just a Health Problem
HIV/AIDS is the "biggest threat" to development in Africa and must "no longer be viewed as a health problem only but also a major development issue," Kenyan Vice President George Saitoti on Tuesday told the opening session of the second Pan-African Conference on NGO Partnership for Reproductive Health in Africa being held in Nairobi, Xinhua News Agency reports. Saitoti said that Africans must "aggressively address" the social stigma that contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, and he advocated taking a "broad-based" approach to tackling the disease by focusing on the reduction of poverty and expansion of access to education and health care while working toward "peace and stability." He added that non-governmental organizations need to "strengthen governance and leadership structures" to ensure the impact and sustainability of their projects. The conference, which ends today, has been attended by representatives from more than 80 NGOs, as well as members of the private sector and government departments that work with reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa (Xinhua News Agency, 4/16).