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Not an HIV cure, but a step in the right direction

The severity of HIV/AIDS is not unknown to Batswana. With a prevalence rate of about 18.5% and an estimated rate of 1.35% it is hard to find a family completely untouched by HIV. Though HIV is still a serious threat to the lives of Batswana there have been notable accomplishments in the struggle against the pandemic, particularly the use of anti-retroviral drugs (ARV’s) as a treatment for those infected with the virus.

Through the use of ARV’s, individuals can expect to live up to twenty years longer than is possible without them. However as good as ARV’s are, they are in no way a final solution in HIV treatment.

A team of scientists at the University of Botswana (UB) have been working on developing compounds superior to the current ARV’s on the market in the treatment of HIV.  This research is championed by four academics; Dr. Mapolelo, Dr. Natiyane, Dr. Nkwe and Dr. Nareetsile.

The need for better ARV’s is a pressing concern because of drug toxicity. James Matshwele, a research assistant in the team and prospective Master’s student in chemistry says that “until treatment which does not induce side effects and cause any long term damage from continuous dosage is developed, research must continue.”

The investigation for better therapies at the University began when PhD student, Scotch Ndlovu put together literature research which showed that there are a class of compounds called metal complexes capable of inhibiting HIV replication.

The inhibition of HIV replication is an important effect in that it slows or possibly even halts the multiplication of HIV within a host. With the spread of the HIV infection effectively contained within the host, the onset of AIDS is delayed and the infected individual is less likely to infect others.

The ability of some of the metal complexes to inhibit HIV replication was shown to be better than azidothymidine (AZT). AZT is the main compound used in current antiretroviral medication. It slows HIV replication in patients but does not stop it entirely and HIV may become AZT resistant over time.

The work done by Mr. Ndlovu prompted further research by the University chemistry department.

James Matshwele, who was a final year student in 2015 did his project conducting experiments demonstrating the effectiveness of metal complexes in inhibiting HIV replication.

Mr. Matshwele went on to present his work at an international science conference in South Africa. Since then the research team has formed collaborations with Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), FORT HARE University in South Africa and University of Johannesburg also in South Africa. Dr. Nareetsile anticipates a three-year timeline till the conclusion of the research.

However, she does admit to a few challenges in the way of advancing the research.   She cites funding as a minor challenge, secure in the knowledge that funds will be made available by both the University of Botswana and BIUST. Her main concern is that there are too few scientists available for research.

Doctors and Professors typically rely on their post graduate students to spend time in the laboratory conducting experiments and collecting data for research. Due to notably few students pursuing post graduate degrees in science there are even fewer students available to participate in research projects the university will be engaged in.

Dr. Nareetsile points out that a possible reason for the shortage in students is that most top performing science students prefer to pursue further studies abroad and the rest often don’t satisfy the strict entry criteria required by the university.  

In addition, there is an economic challenge for citizens since there is no sponsorship available for citizens wishing to pursue a post graduate degree. All things considered the research on metal complexes presents many exciting possibilities.

Should favourable results come out of the research better ARV’s will be developed which will extend the life expectancy of HIV patients. Young people who get infected will still be able to live long lives, comparable even to those uninfected.

Also because the drugs would have been developed primarily from research done in Botswana the cost of acquiring the drugs for the populace will be lower because the intellectual property will not be owned by foreign entities.

Meanwhile Batswana students involved benefit from the capacity building they will be exposed to and the prestige from working on research of such a caliber.

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Woman swindled out of P62 000 by fake CID officers

17th June 2021
Motube

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.

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BCP walks out of UDC meeting

15th June 2021
Boko and Saleshando

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.

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Katlholo wins against DPP

15th June 2021
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katlholo

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.

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