Botswana’s HIV Prevalence Declining Because of Education Campaign, Drug Program, Survey Finds
Botswana has made "major inroads" in curbing the spread of HIV in the country through its government-run educational campaign, according to a national survey released on Monday by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency, Reuters reports. The Botswana HIV/AIDS Impact Survey is the "latest measure of success" for Botswana's "ABC" -- which means abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- HIV prevention model, as well as the country's antiretroviral drug treatment program, according to Reuters (Baxter, Reuters, 1/24). In 2002, Botswana launched a national program to provide antiretrovirals to HIV-positive residents with the help of a $100 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drug maker Merck (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/26/04).
Survey Results, Reaction
According to the survey, 89% of respondents know how to prevent contracting HIV, and less than 6% had more than one sexual partner in the previous year. The results also show that 84% of respondents believe that a woman can negotiate safer sex, a "prerequisite" in curbing the spread of the disease in some communities where "rape and coercive sex are commonplace," according to Reuters. In addition, while UNAIDS estimates Botswana's HIV prevalence rate to be around 37.3%, the survey found a national prevalence rate of 17.1%, which would indicate that approximately 287,000 people in the country are HIV-positive. "Many people believe in a falling prevalence figure as the measure of success of the overall AIDS campaign, but no, it should not fall, it should stabilize," Ernest Darkoh, operations manager for the country's drug treatment program, said, adding, "At this time, falling prevalence means those infected are dying. If I treat you, you remain alive, but you also remain HIV-positive." As of November 2004, 28,000 out of an estimated 110,000 people needing antiretrovirals were receiving treatment under the government program, according to Reuters (Reuters, 1/24).