Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Reuters/Washington Post Examines HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention Programs in Botswana
Reuters/Washington Post on Wednesday examined Botswana's HIV/AIDS treatment program and the challenges the country's HIV prevention program faces (Onstad, Reuters/Washington Post, 6/28). The country in 2001 recorded an HIV prevalence of 38.8%, the highest worldwide. Since then, Botswana's four-year-old antiretroviral drug distribution program has begun to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS in the country, and Botswana in 2005 was one of three African nations that met World Health Organization treatment targets for the number of HIV-positive people receiving antiretrovirals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22). Currently, 85% of HIV-positive people in Botswana who need antiretrovirals receive them, compared with one in six HIV-positive people continentwide. Botswana has been successful in providing HIV/AIDS treatment because health clinics counsel and track HIV-positive people receiving antiretrovirals to ensure that they adhere to their treatment regimens. The success of the treatment program "is in sharp contrast" to the country's HIV prevention program, which has "barely made a dent" in HIV prevalence, Reuters/Post reports. Representatives from aid organizations, government and industry in March agreed to amplify Botswana's HIV prevention campaign, with a focus on local communities. The campaign aims to reduce the number of sexual partners among young people and increase condom use. Although overall condom use has improved, in a recent survey, 43% of people reported not using condoms when at least one partner has consumed alcohol. According to Tse Tsele Fantan, executive director of the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships, the current challenge facing Botswana is to remind people that antiretrovirals are not a cure for HIV/AIDS. "That's really why it is so important to scale up prevention," Fantan said. According to Fantan, the national HIV prevention campaign is starting to produce results. Figures show that HIV prevalence among people ages 15 to 19 has decreased from 22.8% to 17.8%, according to Fantan. "[P]revention is about behavior change. It takes a very long time," Fantan said, adding, "It can take a generation to change behavior, particularly something as personal as sexual behavior" (Reuters/Washington Post, 6/28).
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