Botswana’s Distribution of Antiretroviral Therapy Reducing Number of AIDS-Related Deaths, WHO Report Says
The provision of antiretroviral therapy in Botswana is progressing steadily and resulting in fewer AIDS-related deaths among residents living with the disease, according to a World Health Organization report released on Monday, the SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 10/25). In 2002, Botswana launched a national program to provide antiretroviral medications to HIV-positive residents with the help of a $100 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drug maker Merck. Botswana has established 17 treatment centers, with 15 additional facilities planned. HIV prevalence in Botswana is 37.4% -- the second highest in the world after Swaziland -- and life expectancy in the nation has dropped to age 37 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/4). The "overall mortality" of HIV-positive patients receiving antiretroviral treatment is less than 10%, and about 85% of patients in government hospitals adhere to the program, although many of them must wait a long time to be treated at the centers, according to the report. "The Botswana experience proves that it is possible to provide antiretroviral therapy services on a wide scale with good results in resource-limited settings," the report says, according to the SAPA/Mail & Guardian (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 10/25).
Botswana currently is preparing for national elections, which are scheduled for Saturday and are expected to be won by the Botswana Democratic Party of President Festus Mogae, who has led a "multi-front offensive" on HIV/AIDS, AFP/Business Day reports. After taking over the presidency in 1998, Mogae seized on the AIDS epidemic as "the most pressing challenge facing his country," according to AFP/Business Day. Mogae -- who "never misses an opportunity" to mention AIDS during speeches -- has a "personal commitment" in the fight and has been tested for HIV to set an example for others. He openly talks about the need for safe sex and awareness of one's HIV status in order to fight the disease. The election results -- which are seen as a "foregone conclusion" -- will be announced on Sunday, and a presidential inauguration is scheduled for Nov. 2, according to AFP/Business Day (AFP/Business Day, 10/23).