Mahalapye — The Faith and Community Initiative Project aimed at combating HIV/AIDS in Botswana brings a message of hope to the country, says Vice President Slumber Tsogwane.
"The launch brings a message of hope and confirms to the country and to God that the 370 000 people living with HIV should not despair, but should live with hope, knowing that God cares and His promises stand," he said.
Launching the project in Mahalapye on February 16 under the theme: Standing on the Promises of God as we Fight HIV, Mr Tsogwane said the epidemic still posed great challenges to the country.
He noted that the national HIV prevalence rate stood at 18.5 per cent while the Mahalapye Sub-district was among the hardest hit at 23 per cent.
The vice president said there was need for the country to work hard and for the district to work even harder.
"There is a need for robust leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
This does not only mean faith leaders, but also leaders from every sector and facet of society such as dikgosi, heads of district health teams, district commissioners and non-governmental organisations," he said.
Mr Tsogwane appealed to the nation to support the faith community in implementing the initiative which was meant to mobilise faith leaders to fight against HIV and AIDS in Botswana.
He said government recognised the critical and strategic placement of faith and religious leaders in communities to combat the scourge.
Mr Tsogwane called for unity among faith leaders to advance the course and work towards the common good as well as to prevent new HIV infections.
"No faith should be found to be discriminating against people living with HIV.
No faith should be found to be speaking against health, including treatment," he said.
Vice President Tsogwane said it was not right to appeal to people's faith and influence them to stop taking Antiretroviral drugs.
Stopping treatment, he said increased the viral load and chances of HIV transmission, while it also reduced the body's capacity to fight infections.
The vice president thanked the US government for capacitating the faith community to bring men on board with regard to HIV testing and fighting for children's justice through the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID.
"This is a great opportunity which we appreciate and should utilise wisely to accelerate our efforts in this fight.
We also thank other partners, such as the UN agencies and civil society organisations for the continuous support in curbing the scourge," he said.
Source : BOPA