Botswana’s Stable Political, Economic Situation Helps Country Fight HIV/AIDS, USA Today ReportsBotswana's political stability and relative wealth has allowed the sub-Saharan African country to "embar[k] on one of the most sweeping" campaigns to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide, USA Today reports. While Botswana is "blessed among African nations" with diamonds and a stable political system, it is also one of the countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS; according to UNAIDS, 36% of the country's adult population is HIV-positive. However, the government, led by President Festus Mogae, has set a national goal to have no new cases of HIV by 2016, the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from England. The wealth generated by the country's diamond trade, in addition to supplemental funding from the U.S. CDC, has allowed the nation to launch "an intensive HIV-prevention campaign" and offer all Botswanans free HIV treatments that are often too expensive for neighboring countries to subsidize. Mogae's campaign against HIV/AIDS, which also includes door-to-door visits by trained counselors and government programs "tailored" to different high-risk groups, offers HIV-positive Botswanans the hope that they will not die from AIDS-related causes. "It's a battle to the death, and I can assure you that it's not going to be the death of Botswana. It's going to be the death of AIDS in Botswana," Minister of Health Joy Phumaphi said. According to Max Essex of the Harvard AIDS Institute, HIV/AIDS research will be the "ultimate solution" to the nation's HIV/AIDS problem. The Botswana Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory at Princess Marina Hospital, funded by the Botswanan government, the Harvard institute, Bristol-Myers Squibb and other private foundations, will test blood samples, analyze data for HIV vaccine trials and study drug resistance and will "likely" produce the solution to Botswana's AIDS crisis, including information about HIV-1C, the particular strain of HIV most commonly found in Botswana. Botswana's research and treatment programs may "serve as a model for other developing nations," USA Today concludes (Sternberg, USA Today, 5/1).
Improvements in South Africa's HIV/AIDS Policy
USA Today also profiles the South African government's recent decision to provide prophylactic HIV treatment to rape survivors and possibly provide nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the risk of transmission to their infants. The policy shift was the government's "first acknowledgement" that antiretroviral drugs could help improve the lives of people with HIV/AIDS (Sternberg, USA Today, 5/1). The full article is available online.