Botswana falls short in AIDS fight

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FRANCISTOWN: The spread of HIV/AIDS is still outpacing the country's prevention efforts after a 30-year struggle, an Assistant Minister has said.

Dr Gloria Somolekae of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration told the National Business Conference (NBC) in Francistown this week that the evidence that the country is not keeping up in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the high prevalence rate.

"Commendable progress has been made towards accelerating access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for those in need. However, nearly 30 years into the epidemic and in spite of manifold efforts HIV, is still outpacing our efforts as evidenced by the high incidence rate of 1.5 percent or over 15,000 new infections per year," Somolekae said.

She stated that sustainable financing of HIV programmes has become a global and national phenomenon.  "The economic crisis has resulted in the deterioration of the fiscal position of our country and to this end, we need to conjure innovative methods of generating additional resources to close financing gap," she said.

She added that in this regard, the government and private sector need to collectively invest beyond HIV/AIDS workplace programmes and contribute to the national financial resource base in order to achieve zero new infections by 2016.She stated that recent reports indicate that the private sector contribution or spending on ARV treatment alone is eight percent, followed by nine percent outsourced by government to the private sector through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). The government shoulders the remaining 83 percent.

Somolekae urged the private sector to consider augmenting and supporting government efforts as it strives to expand the national HIV/AIDS resource base. "Our annual HIV budget surpasses P1 billion. This represents funding only of core or essential HIV programmes. If we were to fully finance every little aspect of the response, we would need a budget of over P2.4 billion, hence the need to close such funding gap," she explained.

Somolekae stated that resources to mobilise the general population to go for HIV counselling and testing to increase the number of people who know their status from 56 percent to 90 percent by 2016 is critically needed."We need to procure over 25 million condoms up to 2016 and as we increase our treatment eligibility threshold from 250 CD4 count to 350, we  need more funds to procure ARV drugs," she stated.

Somolokae said that in order for Botswana's HIV/AIDS research to become a model for the region, the country requires money to conduct sound studies to show effectiveness of  activities in the various programmes and demonstrate value for money.

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