Former Botswanan President Mogae Calls for New Vigor in Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Former Botswanan President Festus Mogae at the Sunday opening of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City made a "passionate appeal for new vigor" in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, South Africa's Cape Argus reports (Yeatman, Cape Argus, 8/4). Over the past few months, Mogae has been actively lobbying key African leaders to form an HIV/AIDS initiative and has raised funds for such a group, the Pretoria News reports.
According to Mogae, volunteerism, activism and leadership are needed to address HIV/AIDS on the continent. He said, "African leaders must come together to open dialogue among ourselves for conversation and learning about what works" (Boje, Pretoria News, 8/5). Mogae emphasized the need for efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS -- particularly certain risky behaviors, such as multiple and concurrent partners and girls initiating sex at an early age -- and community support for HIV-positive people, South Africa's Star reports. "We should not be afraid to take controversial steps, as long as we are caring and careful of people's rights," Mogae said (Cullinan, Star, 8/5).
According to the Cape Argus, Botswana a few years ago began routinely testing people for HIV in hospitals and clinics unless they opted out. Although the practice was controversial at the time, it is now accepted, the Cape Argus reports (Cape Argus, 8/4). Mogae added that governments need to distinguish between human rights and civil rights in such situations (Star, 5/8).
Mogae also praised the rollout of antiretroviral therapy, pointing out that Botswana's treatment program is reaching 90% of those who needed it, while only 4% of the country's HIV-positive women are passing the virus to their infants (Bisetty, Mercury, 8/5).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of the opening session is available online.