SELEBI-PHIKWE: The Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcus Makgato has called for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV).
Speaking during the World AIDS Day Commemorations in Bobonong on Friday, Makgato said women are hurting and sad because of a spate of cases of GBV where innocent children have lost their lives. “I do not want to turn numb to the pain of women in this society. Let us, during this 16 Days of Activism on GBV stop and think of what should be done. I want stiffer penalties and we do not want bail for perpetrators. We want to stand as a united voice and I will continue to speak endlessly in Parliament,” she said.
Makgato wondered how it becomes possible for a mature man to rape and murder a nine-year-old girl. She said even girls who become sexually active at a very early age are being used by responsible males.
Meanwhile, the minister said the country has come a long way in the fight against AIDS through the commitment shown by the country’s leadership who took a drastic decision to offer free treatment to eligible Batswana. She said this provided an opportunity to ensure that everybody testing HIV positive is instantly enrolled on treatment. “We are more than grateful for President Ian Khama’s approval of the Treat-All strategy and its launch in June last
She further noted that Tuberculosis remains one of the most important opportunistic infections in people living with HIV, as it is responsible for nine percent of all adult deaths and 40% of deaths among this group. In Botswana, according to Makgato, more than 60% of incident TB cases are co-infected with HIV, hence TB epidemic in the country remains largely HIV-driven.
“This means that we cannot deal with HIV and ignore TB. Neither can we successfully manage TB as a single entity exclusive of HIV,” she said. She applauded Bobirwa for a vibrant TB programme as evidenced by the reported zero defaulter rate during April 2015 to March 2016.
However, the minister is concerned that while Botswana strives to end AIDS by 2030 and to position the country to fast track the efforts, the rate of new infections amongst the youthful population is worrisome. She cited that the number of adolescents aged between 10 and 18 years estimated to be living with HIV increased from 15,500 in 2010 to 17,000 in 2016.
She said this calls for efforts to revitalise HIV prevention through initiatives such as Wise Up, Comprehensive Sexual Education for in and out of school youth and teen clubs, amongst others.