Botswana Launches Infant HIV Testing Program
Botswana in a ceremony in Francistown -- attended by Mark Dybul, who serves as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and administers the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- launched a program to test six-month-old infants for HIV, according a U.S. embassy statement released on Wednesday, SAPA/SABC News reports. The testing program, which aims to monitor infants born to HIV-positive women, facilitates HIV diagnosis in infants six weeks of age and older by using DNA collected through dried blood samples, which do not require refrigeration and can be transported. According to trials conducted last year by Botusa, a partnership between the Botswana government and CDC, early testing helps control viral loads in HIV-positive infants. Previously, infants were tested using enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay tests at 18 months, when they already could be at an advanced stage of infection, according to SAPA/SABC. Pilot programs of the infant testing campaign have been conducted successfully at 11 clinics and one referral hospital in the country, SAPA/SABC News reports. Botswana is a PEPFAR "focus country" and this year has received $54 million from the program for efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, SAPA/SABC reports (SAPA/SABC, 10/25). Dybul during his visit to the country said that prevention and behavior change can eliminate the need for antiretroviral treatment. He added that although there has been progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, more needs to be done. "AIDS isn't going anywhere," and antiretrovirals are "not a cure," Dybul said (Mmegi/AllAfrica.com, 10/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.