Stanley Monageng, a 72-year-old HIV positive man will walk 370 kilometres across Botswana in a quest to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
In an interview with Mmegi, Thusang Bana Centre programme officer, Lebogang Sekaname said Monageng would start his walk in different villages and towns next month. She explained that the walk is also aimed to demonstrate to society that people living with HIV can engage in activities that ‘normal’ people do.
“After every walk, Monageng and his team teach the communities about HIV. He will share his story. He will tell them about his life since taking ARVs and how the medication changed his life for the better. On another note, our health educators will also be teaching the gatherings about the Treat-All programme. It is important for people tested positive to start ARV treatment so that their viral load can be suppressed,” she said.
Sekaname added that if taken accordingly, ARVs could suppress the virus making it undetectable, meaning that chances of transmitting the virus to the next person sexually would be minimised.
However, she pointed out that it is important to maintain the undetectable status by using condoms and other preventative strategies to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and re-infections.
She explained that re-infections could happen when people do not use condoms because the HIV virus differs from one person to the other. She added that different HIV persons take different kind of ARVs, meaning that if two people with different HIV viruses and ARV treatment have unprotected sexual intercourse, they might get re-infections.
This might lead and might be resistance to treatment. Therefore, condom use remains a very effective HIV prevention strategy, she emphasised.
Sekaname disclosed that some people default in taking their ARV treatment due to stigma associated with the HIV and AIDS. She said through the walk, Monageng and the team intend to encourage defaulters to re-start the treatment so that they could suppress the virus and live longer.
“We will also be teaching people about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which is offered by Tebelopele voluntary counselling and testing centres (VTCs). This is given to HIV negative people who are at high risk of getting the virus. PrEP is given to the key populations such as discordant couples (where one partner is HIV negative whilst the other is positive) who want to have a child, men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers,” she said.
Furthermore, Sekaname explained that Monageng is fit, strong and well prepared for the walk. For example, he exercises and walks daily. Thusang Bana Centre health educators, auxiliary nurse and a team of photographers will accompany Monageng. This is not his first walk. He started his first walk in 2006 where he walked 500km across the country.