Bobonong — The coordinator of National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA) Mr Richard Matlhare said back in the days HIV/AIDS used to kill a lot of people before major interventions were made by government.
Speaking during the national launch of Month of Prayer against the disease in Bobonong on Saturday, Mr Matlhare said the prayer month was introduced in 1996, calling religious organisations to pray and come with strategies of ending the spread of the virus.
The coordinator said the church was important in the fight because it was part of the multi-sectoral approach to ending HIV/AIDS.
The health sector, he said, provided the biomedical or clinical approach to the disease while the church's primary role was the spiritual intervention and led on behavioural change.
Mr Matlhare acknowledged the church and Botswana Christian Intervention Programme (BOCAIP) for the spiritual approach during tough times when people were dying in large numbers.
He explained that over the years, government had channeled a lot of money to buy lifesaving drugs to help those infected and that Treatment for All was applied irrespective of CD4 count.
However, he acknowledged some challenges in the fight, stating that about 36 per cent of the population did not know their status and called for people to test.
Further, he said condom use has also dropped from 78 per cent to 65 per cent and numbers of teenage pregnancy have escalated indicating that people were reckless.
Mr Matlhare said Selibe Phikwe was leading in HIV with 27 per cent infection rate, and 50 per cent of women between 35-50 per cent were leaving with the virus.
He said in Bobirwa, there was a concern of teenage pregnancy, as school going children drop from school, TB rates were high, testing was low, high incidents of alcohol and drug abuse as well as low numbers of people that participate in safe male circumcision and multiple concurrent partners.
He stated that recent research among school going children indicated that 33 per cent of them had had sex at the age of 13 years, while 13 per cent had participated in transactional sex calling for intervention from both the church and parents.
Mr Matlhare thanked all those that have put their hands together for the fight but said "we have fought a good fight but have not yet won it," he said.
He said the Month of Prayer launch in Bobonong was a precursor to the National Aids Commemoration day that would be held at the village on December 1 and would be officiated by President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
The prayer was launched under the theme "our health, our responsibility, united in ending HIV infections."
Giving an overview of HIV/AIDS issues, head of District Health Management Team in Bobirwa Dr Jackson Kaguamba said AIDS globally affects 36.7 million and 2.1 million new infections were recorded annually.
Dr Kaguamba said in Sub Saharan Africa, 19 million were infected with 1 million new infections recorded annually.
In Botswana, he said 350 000 people were estimated to be infected and 264 000 as at 2015 were enrolled in ART, and in Bobirwa Sub-district 11 000 people were on treatment.
He said the fight to arrest the disease from death to a chronic alignment started in 2004 and now HIV/AIDS was being treated like any other disease.
Dr Kaguamaba was concerned that there were some people still living in denial and were not willing to test, high teenage pregnancy rates, STIs and escalating number of rape.
Pastor Jobe Koosimile from BOCAIP said the month of prayer was a contribution by Christians to put a brave fight against the disease through prayer.
Pastor Phillimon Motlhagodi representing OAIC said the church has the responsibility to preach the gospel as well as warn congregants about HIV.
Pastor Motlhagodi commended third President Festus Mogae for soliciting anti retroviral drugs for the nation and said the larger part was left with parents to sensitise children about the scourge.
Source : BOPA