Washington Times Profiles Botswana’s National Antiretroviral Drug Program
The Washington Times on Thursday profiled Botswana's antiretroviral drug program, which has attracted many public health groups "in search of one place in Africa that [they] can call a success in the battle against AIDS." While the rest of the continent "dithered" in addressing the epidemic, Botswanan President Festus Mogae in 2001 announced plans to start a program to provide free antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive people in the country. Botswana, which some say has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, opened its first antiretroviral drug site in January 2002 with the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which pledged $50 million, and pharmaceutical company Merck, which pledged $50 million and free drugs for five years. Since then, about 80,000 people have been tested for HIV, and 21,000 of whom have tested positive. Of that group, about 15,000 have become sick enough to begin antiretroviral treatment. Although some say that getting this many people tested and into treatment is a "remarkable success," Mogae said that the government had hoped to have 60,000 people on treatment by now, the Times reports. However, "even with committed leadership and a generous budget, the Botswana experiment exposes serious gaps and shows that the best may not be enough to hold back a rising wave of AIDS illness," according to the Times. "We have to change behavior," Dr. Ndwapi Ndwapi, a physician working in the national treatment program, said, adding, "I do not believe Batswana have a death wish ..., but I am afraid there will be a lot more funerals before people really change their behavior" (Carter , Washington Times, 6/17).
The Times in a separate article on Thursday examined HIV/AIDS prevention methods, including condom distribution and abstinence programs, in Botswana (Carter , Washington Times, 6/17).