Speaking at a seminar in Botswana’s Ghanzi April 5 and 6, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Earl Miller called Botswana “a laudable example for other countries to follow.” Now, Botswana could be among the first countries to actually control the HIV epidemic.”
The seminar was organized by an interagency team from the U.S. government in partnership with the District Multi-Sectoral AIDS Committee. The U.S. also partnered with the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
This program was sponsored by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is the country’s global health initiative to assist countries in responding effectively and sustainably to the HIV epidemic.
Over the last decade, PEPFAR has committed more than $780 million to Botswana in its response to HIV.
“Together, with the Government of Botswana, civil society and other development partners, we have come a long way,” Ambassador Miller noted.
Ambassador Miller lauded Botswana’s progress towards meeting UNAIDS global “90-90-90” targets -- referring to the HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression targets – 90% of those infected with HIV should be aware of their status; 90% of those aware of their status should have received treatment; and, for 90% of those being treated, the drugs will have had the intended effect of suppressing the patient’s viral load.
A study sponsored by PEPFAR found that out of the 3,500 individuals from 30 communities who tested HIV positive, 83% of them knew their HIV status; among people who knew their HIV-positive status, 87% of them had initiated treatment; and 96% of those on ART had achieved viral suppression. This was only a relatively small sample size in just 30 communities, but it is encouraging.
Ambassador Miller commended the Government of Botswana for considering the adoption of the Test and Treat policy. “Moving towards earlier initiation of treatment is strongly supported by a recent international randomized clinical trial,” he said.“Treatment also acts as prevention by lowering the risk of transmission to uninfected sexual partners.”
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts and, together, run to and through the finish line.”