World AIDS Day: Botswana president warns not everyone can get free ARVs

Published: December 2, 2011

Botswana’s President Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama warned on Thursday that Botswana does not have the capacity to extend free ARVs to everybody forever.

Speaking at a function to commemorate World Aids Day 2011, the president said, “The only alternative is for the country to focus its efforts of the prevention of new infections.”

This year’s theme called for zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero HIV related deaths. 

The president however added, “With full treatment access and further personal responsibilities for one’s own health, the nation can aspire for zero Aids related deaths by 2016.” 

The commemoration was held in Moshupa, (a large village in the Southern District of Botswana with a population of approximately 20,000) where the president was the keynote speaker. 

The president was joined by amongst others Mphu Keneiloe Ramatlapeng, the Minister of Health, Maitlhoko Mooka; the Member of Parliament for Moshupa; Kgosi Kgabosetso Mosielele the Chief of Moshupa, the reigning Miss HIV Stigma Free and representatives of NGOs from different parts of Botswana. 

Projections indicate that HIV/Aids related deaths are down by around 60 per cent from an estimated 14 700 in 2003 to 6 200 by the end of 2010. 

The president noted that global resources available for HIV and Aids are declining over time with the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria facing financial challenges. 

President Khama also pointed out that the country spends tremendous amounts of money to keep people on the treatment programme and meeting the needs of orphans. 

The budget allocation this year is 981million Pula (US$132,336,871) with ARVs alone accounting for 185 million Pula (US$24,956,494), while the Orphan Care program accounts for 290 million Pula (US$39,120,991). 

Meanwhile, the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/Aids (BONELA) said Botswana will not achieve zero HIV infection as long as the country does not acknowledge sex workers as important and key players in achieving zero infections and not as drivers of HIV. 

Bonela said if sex work was legalized and regulated as is the case in certain other countries, this would mitigate against the spread of HIV. 

Bonela added that involving homosexuals in all HIV interventions would be great and that it would be helpful to legalize same sex relations so that no one was forced underground feeling as though they were criminals. 

Bonela said providing prisoners with condoms, to curb the spread of HIV among inmates and by extension the entire community, as inmates walk in and out of prison every day. 

Uyapo Ndadi the director of Bonela said “Today is the day that we challenge individuals to remember HIV challenges us in many ways and requires measures that are extraordinary and pragmatic. Saving lives should take precedence over religion, culture and personal convictions.” 

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