Government and Faith Based Organisations stand together to fight HIV and AIDS in BotswanaNov 24, 2013
In an effort to sustain and improve on the progress made in the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic, the Government of Botswana is reaching up to a cross-section of society to supplement its efforts. The government and Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) invited Faith Based Organisations including the Zion Christian Church leader, Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane and membership to launch of a series of HIV and AIDS prevention strategies including Faith Based Organization (FBOs) HIV and AIDS Prevention Strategy in Gaborone.
The event was attended by more than 20,000 people from different churches in the country and neighboring South Africa and demonstrated the country’s diverse approach to combating one of its major development challenges. HIV prevalence rates remains at 24.8% among the adult population (15-45 years old). The government’s HIV and AIDS response focuses on the achieving of zero infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2016, when the country celebrates its 50th Independence Anniversary.
During the launch of the prevention strategies at the country’s national stadium, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Anders Pedersen, commended the government’s Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) for the concerted and committed actions in eliminating mother to child transmission and achieving universal coverage in providing life-saving ARTs to almost all of the people in need.
Mr. Pedersen however pointed out that multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, low correct and consistent condom use, inter-generational and transactional sex, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence remained as challenges that had to be faced in preventing new infections and sustaining gains made in the fight against the pandemic. He called upon the faith community to help address these challenges through its historical ability to shape people’s behaviours, opinions and attitudes. “Every week, thousands of Batswana listen to a faith leader and allow their lifestyles and choices to be shaped by what they hear from the pulpit, mosque or other religious platforms.” Anders said.
The country’s vice president Ponatshego Kefhaeng Kedikilwe called the event “a defining moment”. He pointed out that HIV remained the prime driver of the Tuberculosis burden in Botswana with a 63% TB/HIV co-infection rate. He reaffirmed government’s commitment to the addressing the challenge and curtailing its effects on the social and economic sectors of the country. He further emphasized that “self-discipline, prayers and ARVs” remained essential in fighting HIV and AIDS, both as treatment and measure of prevention.
Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane urged the public to dispel misconceptions that men who are circumcised won’t get the HIV. “Male circumcision only reduces the risk of female to male sexual transmission of HIV by around 60 per cent. Do not fool each other with fiction and lies.” He said. He called upon the the government to “seriously and mercilessly clamp down on conmen and women who spread lies that they can heal HIV and AIDS” noting that people have used the name of God to rob people of money in an attempt to rid them of HIV.