Youth HIV/AIDS Rate Declines in Botswana

15/10/2009 - Botswana, long heralded as an economic success story of Africa, is still unable to beat its crippling AIDS rate; AIDS infects thousands of children each year, charity reports.

Botswana’s Minister of Health has announced that the rate at which HIV spreads in the country has stabilized.

The overall prevalence rate has declined ever so slightly since 2004, he said, which denotes a deceleration in transmission.  In further evidence of this trend, the number of young adults infected with the virus, while still substantial, has declined almost 5%, especially as more and more families have access to mother-to-child transmission prevention mechanisms.

Nevertheless, 40% of Botswana’s population of two million people is infected. Approximately 15 000 of this number are under fourteen years old, as of 2007.

HIV/AIDS has long been a problem in Botswana; but on the bright side, the country has had an equally long history of providing its people with assistance.

It was the first nation in Africa to offer drugs, treatments, and testing free of charge. Largely because of its excellent governance record, Botswana has benefited from international development aid, such as that from USAID.

One of the main public health messages promoted in cooperation with USAID is the ‘ABC Strategy’: Abstain, Be Faithful, or Wear a Condom.  The education of young people and readily accessible information, testing, counselling, and treatment is most important to reversing the spread of HIV.

To date, 120 000 children have been orphaned by the disease.  Young girls and women are vulnerable to rape and sexual assault, which increases their chances of contracting the disease. In some countries, there are myths that propagate the false idea that having intercourse with a virgin cures AIDS. 

Poverty still remains the main culprit in the spread of HIV.  While Botswana has been called ‘Africa’s Gem’ because it has maintained macroeconomic stability, non-corrupt resource management, and good governance while staving off civil war, 47% of its people live in dire poverty—a product of the hefty gap that is the income inequality in the country.

Botswana will hold presidential elections tomorrow.