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U.S gives Botswana $7.5 million to fight HIV

The United States government has applauded Botswana for its recent decision to adopt and implement the new international policy of HIV prevention initiative (Option B+) leading to the U.S pledging $7.5 million through the U.S President Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) to support the initiative.

Option B+ is a program that provides lifelong treatment to HIV positive pregnant women regardless of their CD4 count. The program is reported to be important because lifelong treatment helps prevent infant infections, saves mother’s lives, reduces the numbers of orphans, and is regarded cost- effective.

“I am happy to announce that the U.S government has pledged $7.5 million in funding through PEPFAR to support the government of Botswana’s recent decision to adopt and implement Option B+,” U.S Charge`d’Affaires Michael Murphy said at the recent opening of the New Directions in Global Health seminar held in Maun.

Murphy said his announcement about the U.S government support to government of Botswana’s option B+ program falls in line with the shared vision and goals the two countries have. He quoted President Lt General Ian Khama’s vow before the recent general elections to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV in the next five years.

“This was bold statement, but very important. It happens to be in line with U.S government goals and so we whole heartedly support this initiative of option B+,” said Murphy.

In 2013, a new study was launched in Botswana to determine the best HIV prevention strategies at the community level. The U.S, the Botswana Ministry of Health and Harvard University announced the ongoing four year project called the Botswana Combination Prevention Project, known best in Setswana language as ‘Ya Tsie’. The $64 million project is also funded by PEPFAR.

The study reported to have piloted Option B+ prior to the national rollout, and demonstrate the willingness of HIV positive pregnant and breastfeeding women in Botswana to continue anti-retroviral therapy for life when recommended.

Through PEPFAR, the U.S government has launched a new effort called ‘New Direction in Global Health’, a series of road show seminars that brings public health experts together with district stakeholders outside Gaborone and Botswana media to exchange information on the research, best practices and successes in the response to HIV and other global health concerns in Botswana.

It is also aimed at persuading key policy makers at the district level to increase their commitment and coordination in the response to HIV and other global health issues.

The seminars are held in partnership with the District Multi-Sectoral AIDS Committees and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA Botswana).

The U.S government through PEPFAR has committed more than $700 million (nearly 6 billion Pula), mainly to support Botswana’s HIV/AIDS responses.

Working in partnership, Botswana and the U.S have witnessed new HIV infections in Botswana dropping by 71 percent since 2001, with also mother to child transmission rate dropping from a peak of around 40 percent to nearly two (2) percent. It is also stated that Botswana’s provision of free anti-retroviral treatment to its citizens has become a model for the rest of the world.

However, it is revealed that every single day in Botswana, 45 people are infected with HIV, reflecting about 16 000 of new infections every year. Internationally, it is reported that for the past 35 years, the HIV epidemic has spread across the globe and claimed around 40 million lives, with every week 24 000 lives being lost due to this epidemic.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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State ignores Butterfly P85 million suit threat

26th October 2020

The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.

Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.

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