Botswanan President Calls for Change in Behavior To Fight HIV/AIDS
Botswanan President Festus Mogae during a state of the nation address on Monday called for people in Botswana -- which has the highest adult HIV prevalence in the world -- to change their behavior to help curb the spread of HIV, SAPA/AFP/Independent Online reports. Mogae said that stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS remains "one of the greatest barriers to the implementation of various care and prevention strategies." Mogae added, "We have spoken of the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a war that needs to be won. Yet in this war we remain our worst enemy. It is we alone who through behavior change must achieve our victory." Mogae last month announced a new initiative to provide HIV tests as part of routine medical checkups in public and private clinics (SAPA/AFP/Independent Online, 11/11). An estimated 35% of the adult population of Botswana is HIV-positive, and less than 8% of Botswana's population of 1.6 million knows their HIV status. Fewer than 9,000 people are taking antiretroviral drugs through a national treatment program. Over the past three years, only 84,000 HIV tests have been administered at U.S.-funded voluntary counseling and testing centers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/10). Mogae on Oct. 17 announced that the government will begin offering routine HIV testing in all government facilities by 2004. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/21).
Mogae is scheduled to give the keynote address on Wednesday at a one-day conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force. A webcast of the conference, titled "Botswana's Strategy to Combat HIV/AIDS: Lessons for Africa and President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," will be available online on Nov. 14.
Additional information on AIDS in Botswana is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.