Mahalapye — President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi says COVID-19 has put pressure on the country's health systems and economy with the potential to undermine gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In his pre-recorded message on the occasion of the 32nd World AIDS Day commemoration held in Mahalapye yesterday, the President however assured the nation that the pandemic would not derail government from its spirited fight against HIV/AIDS.
He therefore commended Batswana for following all the COVID-19 precautionary measures imposed by government which had ushered in considerable milestones in controlling the spread of coronavirus.
"Although we hope for COVID-19 vaccine to be approved soon, it is imperative for us to continue adhering to the set protocols," he said.
On this year's theme, Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility, President Masisi said it "calls for coming together of our communities, faith leaders, civil society and donors in fighting the disease.
"Our collective efforts as governments, in partnership with the private sector, civil society and deployment partners is key in addressing the challenges we continue to face in a more efficient manner".
The President said since the first HIV case was diagnosed in 1985, significant progress had been made to contain the spread of the disease as well as mitigate its negative impact on the country's economy and social wellbeing.
From 2010 to 2019, he said, new HIV/AIDS infections had reduced by 34 per cent while HIV/AIDS related deaths declined by 28 per cent in the same period.
Dr Masisi said the country surpassed the United Nations 90-90-90 targets in 2018 and had now set new targets of 95-95-95.
Currently, he said, 92 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS knew their status, 89 per cent were on ARV treatment and 96 per cent were being virally suppressed.
In addition, the country was on the path to eliminating HIV transmission from mother to child through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, he said.
Another achievement, he said was the introduction of the pre-exposure prophylaxis as prevention medicine for people at risk of contracting HIV.
In December 2019, he said government, through US President's Emergency Program For AIDS Relief, adopted a policy on providing HIV/AIDS services to non-citizens adding that to date, some 2 965 were accessing ARV treatment free of charge.
He said the commemoration was an opportune time for the country to take stock of progress made so far and also provided a moment to show compassion to Batswana living with HIV/AIDS and remember those who died due to the pandemic.
Although the country still remained one of the countries with the highest HIV/AIDS infections in the world, he vowed that "we will continue to sustain our efforts in combating HIV/AIDS and ensure that we do not leave anyone behind in our HIV/AIDS response strategy."
He said an estimated 384 110 people in Botswana were living with HIV/AIDS.
President Masisi expressed gratitude to development partners including the US, Global Fund and UN family in Botswana for their continued support to the country's fight against HIV/AIDS.
Since 2003, he said, the US government had invested over USD 1 billion in Botswana's HIV response strategy while the Global Fund had since 2016 cumulatively granted the country approximately USD 50 million for various HIV programmes and had also made a commitment to continue supporting the country up to 2024.
The UN family in Botswana continued to provide technical support, the President said.
Dr Masisi also thanked former president Dr Festus Mogae for doing a sterling job in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Source : BOPA