COVID-19 hampers the fight against HIV/AIDS in Botswana

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HIV -AIDS

The COVID-19 pandemic is blamed for having hampered the fight against HIV/AIDS in Botswana.

The southern African country has made significant strides in the fight against the endemic HIV/AIDS over the last two decades. Information obtained from the country’s National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) said that Botswana’s prevalence ratio dropped to 20.3 percent in 2019 from a peak prevalence rate of 26.3 percent in 2000, and has been improving year on year.

“However, this hard-earned progress is at a high risk of being undone due to the pandemic,” said Oageng Batshani, the Gaborone District AIDS Coordinator, in a telephone interview with Xinhua.

Batshani admitted that there is significant impact on HIV health services following that realization of a slight increase in the number of patients who default on getting antiretroviral treatment from facilities.

“This is due to the fact that some of our clients (HIV patients) stay far away in areas that may require a permit for them to come to Gaborone as well as other service centres dotted across the country and collect their medication,” he said.

Around this diamond-rich nation, clinics have stopped or limited testing for HIV in order to focus on the new coronavirus, he said.

Batshani further stated that lockdowns have deterred those infected from showing up for laboratory tests and doctor’s visits due to restricted movements of people imposed by the southern African country with a view of curbing the spread of the new pandemic.

Toward the end of March this year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi extended the state of public emergency by another six months until Sept. 30, 2021, as part of measures to contain the transmission of the pandemic.

“Disruptions to the supply chain due to restricted movement of people have led to shortages in life-saving HIV medication,” Dr. Martin Ndzonga, an independent medical practitioner and an expert in communicable diseases, told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

According to Ndzonga, most effective strategies of spreading messages on HIV such as through mass campaigns among other things have now stopped due to COVID-19 movement restrictions.

Ndzonga said Botswana is anticipating high numbers of teenage pregnancy and consequently an increase in the number of new HIV infections teenagers due to the interruption of school health programmes by health protocols for prevention of COVID-19.

Masisi remains hopeful that Botswana will manage to deal with both COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, reiterating that his administration will prioritize saving Botswana’s population. Enditem

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