AIDS: Botswana Fights to Eradicate

AIDS

While Bill Clinton’s recent call to end global AIDS at the 2014 International AIDS Conference  is a big task, it can be possible. There are roughly 33.4 million people who are living with HIV or AIDS around the world and since 1981, there have been 25 million people who have died from AIDS.  Despite the AIDS epidemic, Botswana is an example of how proper treatment and care is essential in fighting and eventually eradicating the disease.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is contracted when this virus gets into a person’s system through the transference of certain bodily fluids from a person who is HIV-infected. A person can come into contact with this virus through sexual contact, needle or drug injections, pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding, and  through blood infusions. Once it is in a person’s system, HIV attacks T-cells, which play a vital role in maintaining the immune system. As this virus destroys the T-cells, it also replicates itself and attaches itself  to more cells in the body, thus rendering the body helpless from against any disease. At its final stages, HIV becomes AIDS and eventually leads to death.

However, not everyone who has HIV will eventually get AIDS. Over the years, there has been a lot of research and advancement in the prevention of AIDS. With the correct treatment called “antiretroviral therapy” (ART) the virus can be kept at a lower level.

Despite the fact that there are treatments, not everyone has access to the treatment nor can everyone afford the medical supplies. Thus, there are many people who die unnecessarily because of  AIDS.  A proper focus on the treating those with the disease will significantly lower the death toll, as shown by Botswana’s fight to eradicate AIDS.

Botswana is considered one of the most successful countries in Africa to tackle the AIDS epidemic. President Festus Mogae, who took office in 1998, made it his goal to lower the number of AIDS related deaths. He allocated a significant amount of money AIDS for prevention. In 2002 a program was launched that allowed almost every Botswana citizen to free receive treatment. Although they still have a very high percentage of people struggling with this disease, the country has been significantly transformed since the medication was made accessible to all.

Kgosi Mmualefhe, a resident in Botswana stated that there used to be funerals every weekend for people who died of AIDS. Many people who roamed the streets were very noticeably sick and some couldn’t even get up to walk. However, since the drugs have been given for people to take, he stated that he is seeing a lot of improvement. The number of babies who have HIV transmitted to them through pregnancy has been reduced to 4 percent.

Botswana’s success in treating patients with HIV and AIDS is partly due to the huge amount of funding given by international donors, showing the importance of international support. Botswana has also increased their own spending on AIDS prevention over the years.

There is still a great need for treatment to be made accessible to every country and every person. Sub-Saharan Africa is the area that is hardest hit from this disease, and they are also the area with one of the least amount of resources for disease prevention. As seen by Botswana’s example, the fight against the AIDS epidemic is possible, as countries convene every year for the international AIDS conference to brainstorm how they can eventually eradicate this disease.

By Joyce Chu

Sources:
NPR
AIDS.gov
The Independent

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