Botswana dials 90-90-90 to tackle HIV spread


In continued effort to fight HIV/AIDS in Botswana, Gaborone mayor Kagiso Thutlwe, adopted a global campaign, the 90-90-90-test drive initiative, which has set new targets for HIV testing and treatment.

The campaign was enunciated at the UNAIDS International AIDS conference held in Melbourne, Australia late last year. The initiative follows through key steps considered critical to better health for HIV positive people, and limit new infections. The philosophy is that 90 percent of people must get tested, 90 percent HIV positive people should be on treatment and 90 percent of people on treatment should have suppressed viral loads.  Thutlwe said he was exposed to this initiative during an overseas trip.

“I went to New York earlier this year for a mayors summit, where I was chosen to be the focal mayor to lead all cities in southern Africa region in the fight against AIDS. For this position I had been pitted against the Durban and Cape Town Mayor whom I beat to this role,” he said.

The mayor explained that he had been concerned by the silence of the political leadership of this country, saying that they had lost the steam and do not talk about it anymore. He said the 90-90-90 entails three steps; having 90 percent of all people living with HIV to know their status; to have 90 percent of all those who are diagnosed with HIV to be on sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART) and to have 90 percent of those on ART having an undetectable viral load.

“This highlights both the importance of wider access to viral load monitoring and the importance of viral suppression as a major goal of ART. This also recognises the dramatic reduction in transmission risk once viral load is undetectable,” he said.

He added that the country could not afford to wait to take action because there are already many Aids related deaths in Botswana every day. Thutlwe explained that although there were many education programs in Botswana, research shows that the majority of men do not always use condoms.

Thutlwe said the country needed to re-introduce the discourse about HIV and AIDS and create an environment where people could talk openly about HIV and AIDS and make sure that everyone understands the danger of unprotected sex, and the responsibility they had to protect themselves and their partners. He also said the silence and stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS had to be broken and replaced by openness, good communication and compassion.

He further noted that aim of this campaign is to reduce HIV infection rate by encouraging all people to test, and that those who test positive be rendered proper counseling. Thutlwa added that they have engaged a Lentswe La Monana Youth Organisation, as part of their strategy of ensuring youth are at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as they are most affected.

The campaign will be launched on Saturday May 23, 2015 at the Gaborone bus rank.

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