Botwana’s war on HIV and AIDS praised

By Henry Neondo, Rio de Janeiro

Scientists from around the world have praised Botswana at a conference in Brazil for its determination to tackle Aids/HIV.

Botswana, one of the countries worst affected by HIV infections has close to 40 per cent of its population HIV positive.

Life expectancy has fallen from 67-years in 1985, when the first case was identified, to 65 years today.

Some scientists had predicted that if a major Aids programme was not implemented quickly, then life expectancy would drop by another 25 years in the next decade.

But Botswana is now not only running major prevention campaigns, it is rolling out treatment to almost 50,000 HIV-positive patients.

President Festus Mogae, one of the key note speakers at the conference said the country was determined to succeed.

"We didn't think we could possibly mount the anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy even if we could afford the ARVs," he said.

Research presented at the conference in Rio de Janeiro shows that this approach is also working well in other African countries.

ARV treatment projects have been set up from scratch in Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda and South Africa.

Lack of experience, facilities and trained staff are however a challenge but where these schemes have been applied, they are running well, showing that even in resource-poor settings, Aids treatment and prevention programmes can be successful.

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