Vice President Slumber Tsogwane officiated over the national launch of the Faith and Communities Initiative, a joint program of the U.S. Government and the Government of Botswana. U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Craig L. Cloud recognized the gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and encouraged the country not to give up before the epidemic is controlled.
Vice President Tsogwane called upon faith and community leaders to redouble their efforts and promote new messages of hope for living with HIV. He also spoke against the practice of some faith leaders asking their members to stop taking ARV medication, as this is dangerous for the body and the community.
The Faith and Communities Initiative is funded through PEPFAR and recognizes the critical role faith and traditional leaders have in their communities. The Initiative draws upon the influence and wisdom of faith and community leaders—including pastors, religious leaders, traditional doctors, dikgosi, and other village leaders—to reach men and adolescents who have HIV ensuring they start treatment immediately, and to prevent violence against children. “For decades, we have been praying for a miracle to end AIDS, and that miracle is here: by taking one pill a day,” Ambassador Cloud told the crowd of 3,000. “But stigma is still keeping people from life-saving treatment. The role of the faith and traditional leaders in Botswana has never been more important.” Ambassador Cloud also noted the importance of parents talking openly to their children about their bodies, in order to protect them against sexual violence and to know how to report if it occurs.
Edwin Motse, FCI Ambassador, also addressed the large crowd and received a lively response. He has been living well on HIV treatment for 21 years and stated that the only truly difficult thing about living with HIV is dealing with stigma. He has three HIV negative children.