Botswana To Implement Routine HIV Testing in Government Clinics
Botswanan President Festus Mogae on Friday announced that the government will begin offering routine HIV testing in all government facilities by 2004, the South African Press Association reports. The tests, which will not be mandatory, will also be made available at prenatal and sexually transmitted disease clinics. "It is expected that all patients presenting with symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS will be routinely offered an HIV test with the opportunity to opt-out should they so desire," Mogae said, adding that the private sector should implement similar policies (South African Press Association, 10/19). Mogae said, "I wish to also appeal to various sectors to encourage as many people as possible to test and know their status," suggesting that people could be routinely tested "before a major life event, such as marriage." Ketlhomilwe Moletsane, executive secretary of the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations, lauded the announcement, saying, "I think it is stimulating people to come forward and test for HIV/AIDS." He added, "The programs for [HIV/AIDS] intervention are not being used to the fullest right now" (U.N. IRIN, 10/20). Botswana in 2001 became the first African country to provide antiretroviral drugs through its public health system (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/14). By the beginning of 2003, only 65,000 people in Botswana -- which has the highest HIV prevalence in the world -- had used government testing facilities and few who tested positive were enrolling in programs to receive free antiretroviral drugs, the South African Press Association reports. Mogae is scheduled to speak at a conference in Washington, D.C., next month about Botswana's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, according to the South African Press Association (South African Press Association, 10/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.