Number of HIV-Positive People Accessing Antiretrovirals in Botswana Increasing; Program Could Become Unsustainable, President Says
Botswana's President Ian Khama on Monday said that the number of HIV-positive people accessing antiretroviral therapy in the country is expected to nearly double over the next eight years, Mmegi/AllAfrica.com reports. If current HIV/AIDS rates continue, the number of HIV-positive people accessing the drugs could increase to 220,600, up from an estimated 145,000 currently, according to Khama. He added that increases in the number of HIV-positive people accessing drugs are "largely due to the roll-out of the program to the more remote areas of the country." According to Khama, 81 satellite clinics offering antiretroviral treatment were in place as of the end of September (Dube, Mmegi/AllAfrica.com, 12/2).
According to Khama, the cost of providing the drugs could become unsustainable as more people access the government's treatment program, Mmegi/AllAfrica.com reports. Currently the government funds 90% of the program, which costs 1.4 billion Botswana pula, or about $175 million. Khama noted that the cost of enrolling an estimated 220,600 people in the treatment program by 2016 might be unaffordable. He added, "I wish to reiterate that no amount of money .... can compensate for the need for greater commitment. This is especially so since the level of response is unsustainable in the face of other competing development imperatives. At this rate, continued progress cannot be guaranteed" (Dube, Mmegi/AllAfrica.com , 12/2).
Botswana's treatment program has prevented 50,000 adult AIDS-related deaths as of the end of 2007, meaning that it can be expected to avert 130,000 deaths by 2016, according to Khama. He also highlighted the program's success preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and said that this fact, along with high enrollment rates, "gives us hope that we are gradually approaching achievement of our goal of an HIV-free generation." Despite these successes, Khama said that the percentage of people who have been tested for HIV -- which currently stands at 60% -- is concerning. Khama urged individuals to play an active role in HIV prevention, adding, "The nation demands that every citizen must access treatment on time and all on treatment must adhere. This calls for individual discipline" (Mmegi/AllAfrica.com, 12/2).