Gaborone — Since the launching of the Treat All Strategy by President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama in June 2016, Botswana is steadily making strides towards the achievement of the Joint United Nations Programme on (HIV/AIDS UNAIDS) targets.
Speaking at a high level side event organised by UNAIDS under the topic: Fast Track: Quickening the Pace of Action to End AIDS in New York, United States of America recently, Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi said Botswana supported global efforts to reduce new HIV infections by 2020.
The UNAIDS 90-90-90 initiative aims to achieve three targets by 2020.
That 90 per cent of all people living with HIV being diagnosed or aware of their status; 90 per cent of all people living with HIV being on antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent of those on antiretroviral therapy achieving fully suppressed viral load.
"I am delighted to state that Botswana has made some good progress towards achievement of the above targets.
As a country we embarked on a Treat-all Strategy in order to achieve epidemic control and reduce AIDS related morbidity, especially that of TB and cancers," Mr Masisi said.
He said that it galvanised action towards the 90-90-90 targets, adding that indications were that Botswana could be able to surpass them by 2020. Mr Masisi said since the introduction of routine HIV testing and counselling in 2004, supported by the establishment of voluntary counselling and testing centres in parts of the country, the country has improved the HIV testing rate.
"Similarly, access to antiretroviral therapy is high because Botswana has over 600 health facilities countrywide that offer ARVs free of charge which has eliminated the waiting list," Mr Masisi said.
The Vice President also informed his audience that the introduction of the free antiretroviral programme in 2001, which was the first in Africa, had significantly reduced AIDS-related deaths in Botswana.
He also noted that the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) had notably reduced the number of babies born HIV positive; with 98 per cent of HIV positive mothers giving birth to HIV free babies.
But Mr Masisi acknowledged the challenges still faced by the country such as new infections only slightly dropping from 13 000 in 2010 to 10 000 in 2016, with key population groups such as adolescent girls and young women carrying more than double the new HIV infections.
"Government and other stakeholders are adopting a fast track approach to step up and revitilise HIV prevention through 'game changing' strategies that will bring the epidemic under control.
These included targeted programmes for adolescent girls and young women and their male sexual partners, voluntary male circumcision and comprehensive condoms programming," Mr Masisi said.
Source : BOPA