Botswana’s Traditional Leaders Take HIV Tests To Decrease Stigma Surrounding Disease
A Botswana chief and 30 tribal leaders on Saturday underwent HIV testing to reduce stigma surrounding the disease, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports. U.S. Peace Corps volunteers asked Botswana's Bakwena Paramount Chief Kgosi Kgari Sechele III and the other leaders to take HIV tests, saying that it did not make sense for the leaders to encourage HIV testing among the public without taking the test themselves. The volunteers were "surprise[d]" when all of the leaders agreed to undergo testing, according to the AP/Capital-Journal. "It was not necessary for me to think deeply about the decision to test for HIV because it will encourage men to know their status," Sechele said. Although Botswana has a program to distribute free antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people, the government has had difficulty persuading people to get tested for HIV because of the stigma surrounding the disease. "I think there is an assumption that leaders will not take a test, but the leaders themselves are enthusiastic," Peace Corps volunteer Michael Gillette said, adding, "We did not pressure them, and we did not cajole them." The results of the test were not immediately available, according to the AP/Capital-Journal. Approximately 38% of Botswana's 1.5 million people are HIV-positive (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 5/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.