Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
U.S. News & World Report Profiles Botswana HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention Program
U.S. News & World Report in its July 21 issue profiles Botswana's AIDS program, including the country's universal provision of free antiretroviral drugs (Whitelaw, U.S. News & World Report, 7/21). Botswana has the highest HIV prevalence in the world; 36% of the country's 1.6 million people are HIV-positive. AIDS experts predict that by 2010, more than 50% of Botswana's children will be AIDS orphans and the average life expectancy will have fallen from 47 years to 27 years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/11). Botswana has received grants for its universal access antiretroviral drug program totaling more than $100 million over five years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drug maker Merck. In addition, the Harvard AIDS Institute has built a $4.5 million AIDS research laboratory and is training health care workers to address the epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). The drug program "is akin to a revolution" for a country with such high HIV prevalence and provides a "sliver of hope in the otherwise bleak AIDS pandemic," U.S. News reports. Many critics of such drug programs say that Africa's "feeble health care infrastructure" would not be able to reliably distribute the medicine -- a "real fear" because lapses in treatment can lead to the development of drug-resistant HIV strains. Botswana has taken "extraordinary steps" to prevent such a scenario, requiring patients to have a "buddy" to monitor drug adherence and to attend monthly checkups and pill counts, according to U.S. News. However, the success of Botswana's mobilization in fighting the disease is due in part to its "better than average health care facilities, enlightened leadership, well-targeted aid and vast diamond wealth," U.S. News concludes (U.S. News & World Report, 7/21).
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