HIV-Positive Individuals Traveling to Botswana From Neighboring Countries in Search of Treatment
HIV-positive individuals from Southern African countries are increasingly traveling to Botswana -- the only nation in the region that provides antiretroviral therapy through its public health service -- in search of treatment, the Financial Times reports. Botswana, which has the world's highest HIV infection rate, with 38.5% of people between the ages of 14 and 49 believed to be HIV-positive, began offering treatment this year through a partnership with drug maker Merck and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So far, about 2,000 Botswanans have registered to receive the drugs, and that number is expected to double by the end of the year. Officials at the general hospital in Francistown said they have had requests for drugs from individuals who had traveled to Botswana from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa with the hope of obtaining treatment. Immigration officials have noticed an increase in undocumented immigrants from Zimbabwe, which could have a higher infection rate than Botswana, according to the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership. Political and economic unrest and a food shortage "threate[n] the mass migration" of even more Zimbabweans over the next four months, the Times reports. However, any undocumented immigrants seeking treatment will be turned away under a "strict" government policy that prohibits the four clinics participating in the program from dispensing the drugs to anyone who is not a citizen (Lamont, Financial Times, 9/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.