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Govt plans Test and Treat HIV approach

The government is planning earlier initiation of the antiretroviral therapy (ART) to all Batswana living with HIV, a virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), as soon as they are found to be positive.

Health Minister Dorcas Makgato revealed the development in an interview with WeekendPost saying the implementation of early initiation of treatment will be done under the most encouraged ‘Test and Treat’ approach.

Referring the ‘Test and Treat’ approach as a move towards ensuring that all Batswana living with the endemic disease do enroll for the ART programme, Makgato said the implementation is expected as soon as the funding is available.

“It is the most practical way for a country battling to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic since it will reduce the transmission of the disease,” said Makgato, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ramokgonami-Maunatlala constituency.

Estimates suggest that between 350 000 and 400 000 Batswana are HIV positive and the government is on a spirited mission to identify and instantaneously enroll all of them on treatment.

According to Makgato, the move to deal with the endemic disease is now focused of prevention more that treatment. She said prevention is better than cure saying the exercise is an add-on to a number of preventative interventions in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  

Makgato said government was currently studying the full financial implications of testing the whole nation for HIV, in the effort to implement the 90-90- 90 programme aimed at reaching 90percent of the population knowing its status.

‘Test and Treat’ approach is a new global strategy that sets ambitious targets for combating AIDS and the government wants to domesticate this stratagem, which dictates that by the year 2020, the aim is to have 90 per cent of all people living with HIV aware of their status.

“Furthermore, 90percent of those diagnosed would receive regular antiretroviral therapy,” said Makgato, adding that at least 90percent of people being treated will have lasting viral suppression thereby minimizing the risk of transmitting it to the next person.

Late last year, USAID Country Representative Blake Chrystal told a New Direction in Global Health seminar at Kasane that moving towards earlier initiation of treatment is strongly supported by the recent international randomized clinical trial.

Codenamed START trial, the randomized clinical trial found HIV-infected individuals on early treatment having considerably lower risk of developing full blown AIDS or other serious illnesses than those who delay initiation.

Chrystal added that the treatment also cats as prevention by lowering the risk of transmission to uninfected sexual partners saying World Health Organization (WHO) and US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are encouraging countries to consider ‘Test and Treat’ option.   

On September 30 2015, the WHO made a recommendation urging member states to treat all people living with the endemic HIV, offer antiretroviral drugs as additional prevention choice for people at “substantial” risk of contracting the disease.

According to the WHO, new policies could help avert more than 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.

This new recommendation builds on 2014 WHO guidance to offer a combination of antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV acquisition, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for men who have sex with men.

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Botswana approves extradition of British fugitive

20th March 2023

Raiz Ahmed Tayub, a British fugitive sought by Interpol for his involvement in human trafficking and slave trade crimes, was captured by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) earlier this year.

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BOCRA detects new cyber attacks targeted at Botswana

20th March 2023

Government owned communications regulator, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) recently detected several cyber-attacks targeted at national information and communications infrastructure, companies and home routers in this country.

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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP

17th March 2023

As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.

Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.

Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.

He made a special appeal to the PAP:  “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”

Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”

According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.

As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.

The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.

Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.

Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.

He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.

“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.

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