The government will continue engaging the country’s developmental partners and donor agencies in the fight against the endemic HIV, the virus that causes the problematic AIDS disease.
President Ian Khama revealed this when deliberating a keynote address during the World Aids Day last Monday at Masunga village.
For many years, Botswana has been a beneficiary of the financial and material aid from international donors aimed at playing a critical role in the country’s efforts in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Khama said his administration is mindful of the fact that Botswana is now classified as an upper middle-income developing country and thus official aid has been significantly reduced in the past few years.
“Nevertheless, with a national HIV prevalence estimated at 18.5 percent, a disease burden costing more than P1.6 billion annually and the exorbitant cost of our social safety net initiatives and many more needs, we will continue to engage you to assist us in this respect,” he said.
Khama added: “We remain indebted to all of you (developmental partners and donor agencies).”
Whilst as a nation, Khama said the government is committed to providing Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) to the infected and assist the affected, he expressed concern at the escalating cost of the programme.
The president lamented that the escalating cost is primarily due to the increasing number of people who are living with the pandemic disease commonly the prevalence rate. His wish is that the government will continue assisting the affected together with strategic partners.
“In 2013, HIV prevalence was 18.5percent compared to the 17.6 percent in 2008. In absolute terms the number increased from 300 000 to 320 000 in 2013,” lamented Khama, adding that given the policy of universal access to free ART by Batswana, The treatment cost increased from P1 232 billion in 2009/10 to P1 655 billion in 2011/12.
As a nation, Khama said the citizens of Botswana have got an option to reduce the treatment cost by achieving zero new infections.
“We are committed to shaping the HIV programming in order to invest in initiatives with the best returns and better health outcomes. We can only achieve these with your (developmental partners and donor agencies) support,” he said.
For her part, Minister of Health Dorcas Makgato said Botswana might have made a mistake by ensuring that the ART drugs are provided to the infected free of charge. Makgatho said the ever increasing numbers of those being enrolled under the programme are worrisome.
In her view, Makgato said people are seemingly behaving recklessly as they are mindful of the fact that therapy is provided for free. She pleaded with Batswana to change their behaviour for the good of the nation.