AIDS-Related Deaths in Botswana Decreasing Because of Country’s Efforts To Increase Treatment Access, AFP/Google.com ReportsAFP/Google.com on Saturday examined how Botswana is "living proof to other African countries" that HIV/AIDS "should not be regarded as a death sentence." Botswana President Festus Mogae in 2001 said that the country was "threatened with extinction" because people were "dying in chillingly high numbers." However, during the past five years since Botswana began providing no-cost antiretroviral drugs to people in need of treatment, 8.5% of HIV-positive people have died from AIDS-related illnesses, according to recent National AIDS Coordinating Agency estimates. The country also launched a campaign aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus. The program, which provides all HIV-positive pregnant women with medication, has helped ensure that 4% of infants born to HIV-positive women contract the virus, AFP/Google.com reports.
According to UNAIDS, about 270,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana, and 85% of people in need of treatment receive drugs at no cost from the government. The country hopes to halt all new HIV cases by 2016. Although Botswana is one of Africa's wealthiest countries, some HIV/AIDS advocates say it might not be able to sustain its current antiretroviral program indefinitely and should work to change attitudes about sex. The country also "still faces a mountain to overcome" in terms of stigma and discrimination associated with the disease, according to AFP/Google.com. Uyapo Ndadi -- legal officer for the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS -- said that the government has failed to take the lead on eliminating such stigma. "Stigma and discrimination manifest themselves in the workplace and in the community," Ndadi said. The ongoing stigmatization means that many Botswanans are reluctant to be tested for HIV. Less than 30% of the population is aware of its status, the AFP/Google.com reports. "If people are not changing behavior as we wish, it is because they don't believe it is useful for them," NACA spokesperson Joseph Kefas said (AFP/Google.com, 10/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.