Although Botswana is on track to achieving the 90-90-90 goals by 2020, and in effect ending HIV/AIDS by 2030, the country is not out of the woods yet.
Although regarded as ambitious, the 90-90-90 target states that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. 90-90-90 is a concept introduced by the United Nation’s programme on HIV/AIDS in 2013. The strategy is an attempt to get the HIV epidemic under control and is based on the principal of universal testing and treating.
So far, 87.3% of Batswana know their HIV status, while 86.9% of those that had tested were on ARV therapy while 78% of those that were on treatment were virally suppressed. National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) officials as well as officials from the ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) revealed worrying trends they continue to encounter in the fight against the scourge, amid significant achievements made in the last two decades.
NACA Coordinator, Richard Matlhare told a press conference on Tuesday this week that although some may feel that the war has already been won, there was still a long way to go to conquer the scourge. Matlhare highlighted that the country is regressing when it comes to behavioural change and condom usage. “Our statistics prove that statistics for condom use are declining, despite them being distributed for free at various facilities.”
Equally worrying, he revealed, is the increase of new infections amongst adolescent girls and young women in the ages 10-24. “This age bracket is our future; it is the cream of this country. When you consider these figures, you would agree that we need to work hard around this area,” he said.
Further, he said, key populations had yet to be solved, despite them being key in the equation to defeating HIV/AIDS. “Key populations include sex workers, men who have sex with men and marginalised groups. This the main reason the theme for this year’s World Aids Day centres on the right to health. The theme, ‘My Right to Health’ emphasise that no one should be left behind.”
He underscored that too many people around the world were being denied that right to health, and therefore there was need for Botswana to introspect where it stood with regards to that. “Quality health is not only about access to these services or facilities but comprises many pronouncements and assurances; including being treated with respect and dignity, stigma and discrimination and gender equality amongst others.”
UNAIDS Country Director, Jyothi Raja said although Botswana’s case was exemplary with regards to treatment, it is unsettling that new infections figures were not rapidly dropping, as would be the expectation. She said that men were still not testing as much as women and as a result did not receive treatment on time. Raja elucidated that the country needed strategies targeting adolescent girls and young women (10-24) as they have proved to be in danger more than ever.
Promotions and Communications Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jonathan Moalosi said although Botswana was globally considered to have eliminated Prevention from Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) the ministry was worried by cases of seroconversion noticed in breastfeeding mothers who abandon condom use and in turn infect their babies. “You may be aware that our PMTCT rate is less than 2% while uptake is at 96%. This new trend will certainly set our government aback by 10 steps,” he said.
He encouraged breastfeeding mothers to test regularly so that if there is need, the mothers are enrolled into relevant programmes, and said that men should take the lead in ensuring condom use at all times. It was also revealed that the Bobirwa District, having been hard hit by HIV in recent years had been chosen to host the World Aids Day commemoration for the next five years. HIV prevalence is Bobirwa is the highest in the country at 19.1 percent. Bobirwa has a population of 70 000 (2011 consensus).
District AIDS Coordinator for Bobirwa district, Kabo Kgwaraga, said that the district was experiencing challenges of men not willing to test. He said that in 2016, 3322 people in the ages 15-34 of which 72% were women and 27% men. He said for the ages 35 years and above, only 1551 people were tested and 60% of them were women whilst 40% were men. He asserted that women were the ones testing positives more than men.
The district, he said was affected by gender violence and defilement, and teenage pregnancy cases amongst others. Matshekge hill is reported to have recorded 35 cases of teenage pregnancies this year alone. The closure of the BCL mine, he said, had resulted in an influx of people returning to the district and has since led to an increase in transactional sex. At least 403 326 of Batswana are living with HIV and of that number 305 000 are on treatment, of that number 302 453 were said to be on treatment by February this year.
In June this year, government in partnership with the United States government’s Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) launched the “Treat All” campaign. Treat All is an initiative through which people who test positive for HIV will be put on ARV therapy as soon as possible after testing regardless of their CD4 count.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.