International Community Must Fight HIV/AIDS in Botswana by Providing Health Workers, New York Times Editorial Says
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana -- where nearly 40% of the adult population is HIV-positive -- is "a sobering example of what can happen when [HIV] is allowed to spread widely before an all-out effort is mounted to contain it," a New York Times editorial says. Botswana, which over the last few years has "convert[ed] itself from a poverty-stricken basket case into a model of stability, peace, democracy, good government and strong economic growth," stands to lose all of this as a result of HIV/AIDS, the Times states. Life expectancy in Botswana has dropped from 67 years to 47 years or less, and the nation's economy could lose as many as three percentage points of growth annually as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the editorial says. Although Botswana was initially "slow to respond" to the epidemic because of "ignorance and taboos about even admitting the presence of the disease," Botswana over the last three years has enacted "an aggressive and comprehensive campaign [against HIV/AIDS] that includes testing, prevention, treatment and supportive care" and has dedicated approximately $30 million annually to fight the disease, the editorial continues. In addition, Botswana is also receiving "hefty additional contributions" from the United Nations, the United States, pharmaceutical companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, the goal set by President Festus Mogae of an AIDS-free generation of young adults by 2016 will require "fundamental changes in social attitudes and gender relations" and additional help from industrialized countries. The most "vital service" the international community can offer to Botswana is relieving the "critical shortage" of trained doctors, nurses and other health personnel. International donors must now stop recruiting away Botswana's nurses and instead provide Botswana with additional medical personnel, the editorial concludes (New York Times, 9/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.