Botswana: Molefhi Urges Stakeholders to Work Together to Win War Against HIV, Ncd

National anti-retroviral distribution programme in Botswana (file photo).

Gaborone — Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Nonofo Molefhi has urged all stakeholders to work together to win the war against HIV and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD).

Speaking during the HIV and NCD Southern Region Prevention Pitso in Gaborone, Mr Molefhi encouraged active community participation, with strong stewardship from community leaders, saying without working together it would be difficult to save the nation from HIV and NCDs.

"Otherwise there will be no one attending churches, there will be no one attending kgotla meeting, preserve and save your people," he added.

Mr Molefhi said children HIV and NCD education should be incorporated into the children's upbringing to reduce the chances of them being infected and affected.

Mr Molefhi said the HIV epidemic remained a serious health threat and a critical developmental issue.

According to the 2013 Botswana AIDS Impact Survey, he said HIV prevalence was recorded at 18.5 per cent, slightly higher than that recorded in 2008 at 17.6 per cent.

He said the number of new HIV infections was estimated to be 8 500 annually in 2018, compared to13 000 yearly infections in 2010.

Minister Molefhi said while the 36 per cent drop was a soothing development, it was still too early to rejoice as more needed to be done, especially in the area of prevention, if Botswana was to attain epidemic control.

He said there were disturbing factors that new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women were estimated to be 61 per week.

The minister stated that there were high HIV prevalence rates among key populations, adding the Botswana Behavioural and Biological Surveillance survey of 2017 indicated that 42.8 per cent was for sex workers and 14.8 per cent among men who have sex with other men.

"These statistics paint a serious picture for these at-risk population groups that interact with the general public in all conceivable ways," he said.

Mr Molefhi said some of the contributing factors to HIV epidemic were behavioural, that included early sexual debut, inconsistent condom use, inter-generational sex and gender based violence, saying those apply to the public in general including children as young as 13 years.

He mentioned that another topical issue Botswana was facing was that over the years, there had been an escalation of NCDs with common ones being diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer.

He said globally, NCDs were the leading cause of death, claiming 38 million lives per year.

He stated that in Botswana, NCDs were estimated to account for 46 per cent of all deaths in 2016.

He said what was more disheartening was that Batswana were engaged in practices and behaviour that predisposed them to those diseases, such as excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, physical inactivity and harmful dietary habits.

He said according to the 2014, NCDs risk factors survey, 30.6 per cent of Batswana were overweight and obese, 18 per cent smoked, 20 per cent did not engage in physical activity and 95 per cent scarcely ate fruits and vegetables in acceptable quantities.

He was of the view that the good part was that most risk factors were modifiable, hence behavioural change was critical to all those conditions.

"I wish Batswana could sometimes be forced to leave their cars at home to walk to work, so as to influence the culture of walking to exercise, and be able to eat traditional food mostly," he stated.

Nevertheless, Mr Molefhi said government had developed policies, strategies and guidelines for both conditions.

He said the Third National Strategic Framework outlined priority areas for intervention, which were consistent with UNAIDS HIV Prevention Pillars, as they emphasised prevention interventions for adolescent girls and young women, promotion of safe male circumcision, comprehensive condom programming, prevention programmes for key populations and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis. He said for Botswana to successfully tackle NCDs, they would have to do so with the same robustness and energy that characterised the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Mr Molefhi implored all attendees to take action that demonstrated shared vision, values and commitment to address felt needs of communities.

He further encouraged community leaders, religious leaders and professionals, civil society organisations, government leadership and community to play an active role in fighting HIV and NCDs.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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