'Botswana winning HIV/Aids battle under Masisi'

Masisi is instrumental in fighting the pandemic PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Masisi is instrumental in fighting the pandemic PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

FRANCISTOWN: Some key stakeholders believe that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government has taken a few remarkable steps in the fight against HIV/AIDS a year after he took over power.

When he assumed office Masisi, vowed to step up the fight to end HIV/AIDS in Botswana.  Then, the President acknowledged that complacency was the reason the country’s efforts to fight the endemic have failed to bear any fruit.

“The courage we once showed is slowly fading away, and now is the time to revitalise our programmes and energise our individual capabilities to end this scourge,” Masisi said in his keynote speech on the 2018 World AIDS Day in Mochudi village.

Executive director of Botswana Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS, Kgoreletso Molosiwa is amongst those who believe that under Masisi, Botswana has shown signs of revitalising her fight against HIV/AIDS. “The President has resuscitated the National Aids Council, which has been dormant for sometime. He has appointed the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane as its chairperson. The council will soon sit for its first meeting in a long time. All this demonstrate efforts to revitalise the fight against HIV/AIDS by Masisi’s government,” Molosiwa said.

She added that since Masisi took over power his government has shown effort towards revamping the way the National Coordinating Agency (NACA) was run.

NACA was recently transferred to the Office of the President from the Ministry of Health and Wellness in a bid to ensure its smooth operations.

The organisation has also embarked on drawing a comprehensive strategy that will enlist various stakeholders such as NGOs in rolling out its HIV/AIDS response initiatives. “The First Lady has also been vocal on issues affecting the youth including HIV/AIDS. We believe that through her position she will be able to influence positive behaviour amongst youth which is very key in the fight against HIV particularly on the area of prevention,” she said. However, Molosiwa pointed out that the government’s recent case against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community negate the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS. The government is opposing an application by the LGBT community. The LGBT community wants homosexuality to be decriminalised.

Many have in the past said that lack of specific HIV/AIDS mitigation strategies targeting key affected populations such as homosexuals and sex workers among others, are some of the key factors why the country’s fight against the pandemic has regressed.

Prominent HIV/AIDS activist David Ngele slightly shared some views averred by Molosiwa. He however said that he is yet to see much change in key areas, under Masisi in relation to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

 “By now one would have thought that the president would have shown strong political will to build and strengthen the network between, activists, government, media and advocacy bodies devoted to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The key step in our bid to revatlise the fight against HIV/AIDS is to boost the network of these entities and ensure that they enjoy a symbiotic relationship,” he said. Under former president, Festus Mogae’s term in office Botswana became known for her strong HIV/AIDS responsive policies.

Mogae is often credited for pursuing the HIV/AIDS agenda with passion and vigour. During his reign the HIV/AIDS was responsible for many deaths in the country.

Lack of political will from ex-president Ian Khama (who took over from Mogae) to influence attitudes and spear heading implementation prevention initiatives has often been cited as the reason the has country has regressed with reference to the fight against fighting HIV/AIDS During Mogae’s term new HIV/AIDS infections decreased significantly, from 15,000 in 2005 to 9,100 in 2013. However various sources in recent years have averred that figures have begun to rise again, with 10,000 new infections reported in 2017.

Analyst have also said that there is great evidence that Batswana still engage in a reckless sexual lifestyle, which is making the fight against HIV/AIDS complex.

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