Africa-Press – Botswana. Batswana have been praised for their efforts in the fight against HlV/AIDS which has seen the country emerging from being one of the highest burdened countries to those nearing epidemic control.

Officiating at the World AIDS Day commemoration ceremony in Nata December 1, Assistant Minister of Health, Mr Sethomo Lelatisitswe said communities were the backbone of the battle against the virus, and that without their input and commitment it would not have been possible to achieve the results that Botswana and the rest of the world were seeing today.

This year’s theme: Let Communities Lead, was fitting said Mr Lelatisitswe, noting that it put emphasis on the sustainability of any country’s response to the pandemic.

He said it drew attention to what had been done by Botswana communities throughout the years of fighting the disease and that it reminded countries that without the involvement of communities, success against pandemics such as HIV/AIDS would be difficult to realise.

The assistant minister also highlighted that the country had gained a lot of experience in the management of the disease from 1985 when it recorded its first HIV case. He noted that at the time little was known about the disease, but today ‘we have made some impactful strides on the management of HIV’.

Mr Lelatisitswe noted that the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) concluded its fifth impact survey in 2021, and that it showed that the national HIV prevalence among the adult population aged between 15-64 years was 20.8 per cent which translated to approximately 329 000 people.

He said the rate at which people contracted the disease was about 0.2 per cent which translated to almost 2 200 new infections annually. He added that the same survey showed that for the first time at the national level among those aged 15-64 years, the country had exceeded the UNAIDS global target of 95-95-95.

He said the target was a fast track strategy by the UN institution to end HIV/AIDS by 2030, and that it indicated that 95 per cent of people living with HIV in the country were aware of their status and that 98 per cent of them were on anti-retroviral-therapy (ART) and that 98 per cent of them had achieved viral load suppression.

Mr Lelatisitswe added that further interrogation of the results showed that men were lagging behind when it came to testing and knowing one’s HIV status, noting that only 93 per cent of them were aware of their positive status.

The assistant minister also said another category needing attention in the battle against HIV/AIDS were adolescents aged between 15 and 24 years. He said only 84.5 per cent of them were aware of their positive status , which was way below the 95 per cent target.

In his welcome remarks, Kgosi Rebagamang Rancholo of Nata said HIV/AIDS was still a challenge in his village as the area was the gateway for travellers from all over Africa.

He urged his community to learn from other Batswana who had come to commemorate the day in their village.

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