The stories of five Batswana and their commitment to living openly and well on HIV treatment were shown at a free public screening of a new documentary film Have it All: The Story of the Treat All Program in Botswana. The screening took place at the John Mackenzie School field.
Have It All was produced by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Wellness. A number of dignitaries walked the red carpet at the film’s 22nd May premiere in Gaborone, including His Excellency President Masisi and the First Lady, former President Festus Mogae and the former First Lady, Honorable Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Alfred Madigele, among many others. Francistown is the first stop on the film’s mobile tour of Botswana, which will travel to ten cities throughout the country before the end of the year.
The five stars describe their experiences with HIV testing, treatment, and disclosure, as well as relationships, parenting, and many other issues. The documentary also tells the story of Botswana’s rise as a world leader in the response to HIV/AIDS and the launch of the Treat All program in 2016, which enables Batswana to start free treatment as soon as they test HIV-positive. The film features Mr. Stanley Monageng, a 71-year-old retired nurse who was diagnosed 17 years ago, but remains in excellent health. “Taking my medication is just like taking tea in the morning,” Mr. Monageng says in the film as he swallows his pills on camera while chatting with U.S. Ambassador Earl R. Miller. “That’s why I’m so fit.” Other stars include Edwin and Maria Motse, an HIV positive couple who have been married 16 years and have three HIV negative children; Masedi Kewamodimo, a 23-year-old born with HIV who has traveled the world to speak publicly about HIV; and Pontsho Sekisang, a young man who has faced discrimination both for his HIV status and his sexual orientation. “With HIV, you’re either infected or affected,” Pontsho reminds the audience. “It affects everyone.”
Although Botswana has the potential to gain control of the HIV epidemic in the near future, many challenges still need to be addressed. Nearly one out of five adults in Botswana is HIV-positive, with about 14,000 new infections occurring annually. The documentary, featuring a soundtrack with ATI, MMP Family, and Charma Gal, is intended to expand awareness of Botswana's Treat All program and encourage Batswana citizens to get tested for HIV and enroll on treatment immediately if testing HIV-positive.
Through PEPFAR, the U.S. Government has provided over $900 million since 2004 to support the Government of Botswana in its response to HIV/AIDS.