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HIV prevention pill targets high risk individuals

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), an organisation dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS,  has confirmed with this publication that they are introducing a pill called Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrPEP) which prevents HIV transmission amongst partners.

The pill however will only be given to sex workers, Gay men as well as other people who are at a high risk of contracting the virus. The program objective is to accelerate the provision of Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to 88 percent of people assessed to be at substantial risk of HIV infection by 2023. The pill also targets negative adolescent girls and young women.

According to the third report made by the National Strategic Framework (NSF), PrEP is one of the components of HIV prevention methods. In Botswana, PrEP was recommended by the Clinical Care guidelines committee in June 2016. It has been established that PrEP is an acceptable intervention for high HIV risk populations. The Ministry of Health and Wellness together with non-governmental organisations, has initiated a phased roll out of PrEP, starting with female sex workers and man who sleep with men, followed by adolescent girls and young women, and eventually to the general population.

“It is necessary for PrEP to be initiated by an experienced health care provider who has been trained to recognize physical signs and symptoms of early HIV infection and STIs,” the report noted. The report further highlighted that the health care providers initiating PrEP need to provide comprehensive counselling and education to clients regarding strict adherence to PrEP to prevent HIV transmission. Currently, PrEP services are being piloted in two public health facilities and it is also offered in through the private sector. PrEP will be scaled up to all districts in the next five years.

The Legal Liason Officer, Tebogo Gareitsanye established with this publication that the reason why the pill is administered to a certain kind of group is because of the kind of lifestyle they live. “They are the most affected, let us address them first. HIV prevalence has reached heights within these groups and hence why they need to be given attention first,” she said. She further explained that the pill will not be given to the entire public as they do not want people to be irresponsible. As for now the PrEP is for the mentioned groups only.

“I am very weary of saying PrEP should be given to the public because it is not cost effective, “she highlighted. Another report made by  Ministry of Health and Wellness in 2017, stated that models have demonstrated that certain sexual behaviours and other risk behaviours often hidden populations such as sex work, injection drug use, and male-to-male sex have been the driving force behind concentrated epidemics.

LEGABIBO’s community Mobilisation and strengthening Manager, Bradley Fortuin highlighted that PrEP is drug that when taken daily, it reduces one’s chance of getting infected with HIV by up to 92 percent. “According to studies and Ministry of Health and Wellness, this initiative was adopted in their various programs in an attempt to help to reach the 95 goals which is for people to get tested, know their status and get enrolled in treatment. If you are HIV positive, you get enrolled in the Treat All program immediately. If you are negative and found to be at a high risk of contracting HIV you are referred to PrEP,” he explained.

He further explained that the pill is available in Botswana in limited Non-Governmental Organisations and a limited group of people including couples with mismatched HIV/AIDS status. “Men who sleep with men are enrolled at LGABIBO and Man and Health and Gender Justice. For sex workers it is rolled out through Nkaikela Youth Group,” he said. Fortuin also stated that although the pill is being dispensed, they do not encourage carelessness as the pill does not prevent HIV but reduces the chances of contacting HIV.

“It does not prevent STI’s and we still encourage people to use condoms. People are encouraged to be safe,” he said. This initiative was facilitated through the LINKAGES program under FHI 360 Botswana and it was endorsed by the Ministry Health and Wellness in partnership with PEPFAR. “This are initiatives we have been advocating for, health packaging and health services in our LGBT community. These are some of the interventions that we have called out for,” he explained.

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WeekendLife

Overcoming the trauma of rape

29th September 2020
Moving-on-after-rape

According to World Population Review, women aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape.

From these very statistics Botswana can be found second only to neighbouring South Africa with the highest rape cases in the world. The number of incidents per 100,000 citizens do not take into account the number of cases that have not been reported to authorities. This goes without saying that Botswana may very well be on the same level as South Africa if not surpassing it.

Most of these victims have a hard time dealing with the violence they faced to an extent where it affects their day to day life.

WeekendLife interviewed rape survivor, Patience Ruwona, who was raped at the age of 15. Ruwona shared her gruesome experience and what it took for her to find healing, gather strength and move forward.

“It happened eight years ago and at the time I was only 15 years old. My mother was staying with her boyfriend at the time. So it happened that one day I came early from school. I was still doing form 2. I was the first one to come back from school. The boyfriend was home. So when I was changing into home clothes in my room, the boyfriend came in without even knocking. He then told me my mother has left some money so that whoever comes back first from school can go and buy meat,” Ruwona narrated.

“I then told him I will come get the money when I am done. He went back to his room. So after I finished changing, I went to their room. I knocked and he told me to come in. When I got, I found him half naked with only a towel. That made me feel very uncomfortable because when we were growing, we were taught never to enter an elder’s room when they are not fully dressed. I told him I came to collect the money and he pointed the dressing table.”

Unbeknownst to the young unsuspecting Ruwona, her mother’s then boyfriend would then grab the young lad, rip apart her garments and have his way with her. When Ruwona threatened to expose him, the audacious perpetrator would laugh in her face, telling her that there would be nothing her mother would do about the incident. And true to his words, Ruwona’s mother did not flinch upon hearing the gruesome crime that befell her daughter.

“In the evening when my mother came I told her everything. It was a simple thing to her and she never took it seriously. I told her I am bleeding and she said go and wash up we will talk about this some other time. Just like that suddenly I recalled that man’s words and I truly believed him. Till then I have not told anyone about this. I thought my mother is going to protect me, so if my mother failed to protect me no one else could protect me,” said a distraught Ruwona.

Seeking help after being raped

“Physically I had no desire to have sexual intercourse, I was scared. Years passed by and emotionally I was still battling because there were days I had flashbacks of the rape. It’s like a wound, it can never heal but it can stop bleeding. It never heals. It will bleed another time. I felt uncomfortable around men and I never went for counselling. I never went for anything, I thought I will cope on my own,” she said.

“So one day I decided enough is enough and I decided to speak out. That time I figured counselling would be best.  I later went for counselling and I was doing well. I had to accept it happened and put everything in the past. Forgiving my mother helped me to heal.”

Director of Save A Woman, Babedi Samakabadi, has highlighted that rape is a permanent wound that one has to live with for the rest of their lives.

“The first thing the victim can do is to admit that they have been abused and they should be able to talk about it to whoever they can trust; could be a close relative, a counsellor, a friend or a pastor. It is not easy to take a step towards your healing but it must be done.

Victims of rape, must create a huge room in their hearts to forgive the perpetrators even when they are not sorry, forgiveness will help the victim to make peace with life and the future. Forgiveness will allow the victim to be able to get over the horrible experience and not associate the intimate relations as abuse at all times,” said Samakabadi.

“If one doesn’t allow themselves to heal and move on, dating and engaging in intimate matters are going to be a problem in their lives. As the victim can disclose to whoever they trust like friends or family, they are also advised to seek more especially professional counselling for proper psychological therapy, as the memories of the incident may torment the victim therefore  therapy may assist with getting to live with such memories without being drawn back or life progress being affected . Lastly, the victims must know that issues as these aren’t easy to deal with through our own ability, we need God for strength, wisdom and courage. We have no power to diminish some of the weight in our emotions or the damage done to our souls and hearts, hence we need God to carry us through.”

If you or a loved one is in need of help in dealing with rape or gender based violence, the following organisations provide free counselling services;

BOFWA (Botswana Family Welfare Association) 390 0489

BOSASNET (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) 395 9119

LIFE LINE 391 1270

MBGE (Men and Boys for Gender Equality) 395 7763

BGBVC (Botswana Gender Based Violence and Support Centre) 390 7659

BOCAIP (Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme) 391 6454

Princess Marina Psychiatric Clinic

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WeekendLife

200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020
200,000

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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WeekendLife

AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020
Vee-Mampeezy

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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