Botswanan President Mogae Pledges To Focus on HIV/AIDS in Second Term, Plans To Step Down Before End of Term
Botswanan President Festus Mogae on Tuesday as he was sworn in for a second term pledged to continue to "work hard" on fighting HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. "Together we have a contract and common purpose to eradicate poverty, create employment and combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS," Mogae said, adding, "The situation demands urgent action and the needs are compelling" (Apps, Reuters, 11/2). Mogae first seized on the HIV/AIDS epidemic as the most pressing challenge facing his country after taking over the presidency in 1998. He openly talks about the need for safe sex and awareness of one's HIV status in order to fight the disease. 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 HIV/AIDS 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, 11/2). In Saturday's election, Mogae's Botswana Democratic Party, which has held power since the country gained independence in 1966, won 44 of the 57 seats in the National Assembly. The Botswana Congress Party won 12 seats, and the Botswana National Front won one. Mogae has "made clear" he does not intend to serve his entire five-year term and plans to give the presidency to Vice President Ian Khama before the end of his term, SAPA/Independent Online reports (SAPA/Independent Online, 11/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.