Gaborone — Vice President Mr Slumber Tsogwane has called for renewed strategies to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which are now becoming the new epidemic.
In his opening remarks at the inaugural meeting of the National AIDS and Health Promotion Council (NAHPC) on August 27, Mr Tsogwane said this was evidenced by NCDs contribution to morbidity, mortality and cost to both the health care sector and the national budget.
"The need for renewed strategies to accomplish this assignment cannot be over-emphasised if we are to attain the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2020 Global Fast-Track targets," said Mr Tsogwane who is also NAHPC chairperson.
To give impetus, thrust and appropriate posture to NCDs and HIV/AIDS, government placed both epidemics under the Office of the President., Mr Tsogwane said.
The move, he said, was also meant to adequately coordinate the response to the two epidemics.
He pointed out that on June 14, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, jointly with the then UNAIDS interim executive director, Ms Gunnila Carlsson launched the third National Strategic Framework for the AIDS response and the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs.
As government takes both NCDs and HIV and AIDS responses head-on, the vice president stressed the need for constructive engagement to guide the process towards effective health promotion programmes.
"Combining these two conditions might be an arduous task, but I must mention that it is unprecedented. I, therefore, count on everyone to help us sail through these difficult, but surmountable phases," he said.
Mr Tsogwane expressed concern about high rates of new HIV infections among the youth and adolescents and thanked First Lady Neo Masisi for taking the lead through "Dipalameletse" Road Shows targetting youngsters.
Commenting, former president and ex-chairperson of National AIDS Council, Dr Festus Mogae said he was delighted with the quality of the presentations and the analysis.
"I am glad that we are aware of what is happening, as there has been a resurgence of new infections among young people. I suppose that was to be expected because they were not aware and never saw the emanciation and the many deaths that occurred a long time ago.
And now complacency set in, we felt that we are out of the bush, but the infection curve is going up again. And, unfortunately, it is the young people who are being infected, in their youth, and that should be our target group," he said.
Presenting on National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) transition and the state of the epidemic, NAHPA coordinator, Mr Richard Matlhare expressed concern that from only one case of HIV and AIDS in Botswana in 1985, in 2019 the latest estimates indicated that the country had more than 370 000 people living with HIV and AIDS.
The 2019 UNAIDS estimates, Mr Matlhare said had indicated that the new HIV infections in Botswana had gone down by 36 per cent, which translated into 8 500 annual infections rather than the earlier estimate of 14 000.
"Sincerely, at 8 500 we are still far because the target should be 3 000, so there should be no room for complacency," he said.
The meeting was the first since the reconstitution of NACA into NAHPA.
Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting was Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Nonofo Molefhi, his assistant, Mr Machana Shamukuni, assistant ministers of Health and Wellness and Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Sethomo Lelatisitswe and Mr Kgotla Autlwetse respectively as well as Ntlo ya Dikgosi chairperson Kgosi Puso.