Washington File - 06 February 2002
Washington -- Botswana's health minister, Joy Phumaphi, met with Secretary
of State Colin Powell during a recent trip to the United States for what
she later described as an "excellent" discussion that centered on the
importance of combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Phumaphi, who was on an official weeklong visit to America, told the
Washington File January 23 that Powell is "a true advocate for HIV/AIDS
and the global modernization of support for programs that promote
She added, "Powell is totally informed on what needs to be done, who needs
to get it done, and when it needs to be done" in combating the scourge
that has already killed millions of Africans. He assured her, she said,
"that the Bush administration continued to fully support global
intervention in this epidemic, and that the administration was committed
to do what they can to support the Global AIDS Fund."
Phumaphi said she and Powell also shared ideas on preventing the spread of
HIV/AIDS in Africa through programs that would help fund "pilot
interventions." This is especially important because African governments
have limited resources to spend on health care, she noted.
In addition to discussing monetary assistance, Powell and Phumaphi spoke
of the possibility that the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) will support a regional effort to treat and help stop the spread
of the disease through the Southern African Development Community (SADC),
she said. "But it has not yet taken off," she added.
Phumaphi highlighted several HIV/AIDS programs her government has launched
in Botswana, including the Mother to Child Transmission Program (MTCP) and
an AIDS education program. Both initiatives, begun only a year ago, have
proven to be very successful, she said.
The official explained that the infection rate in Botswana is high -- 19
percent for the total population and more than 30 percent for those she
termed "the at-risk sexually active people." The MTCP is aimed at one
category in the high-risk group -- HIV-infected pregnant women -- and
provides antiviral drugs meant to stop HIV transmission from mother to
"We felt something had to be done, since the transmission infection rate
from mother to child in Botswana was at 24 children per day," Phumaphi
said. Already, in just a short period of existence, the program is an
"undisputed success," she added.
The integration of AIDS education into the academic curriculum, from
primary up to university-level education, is another successful program
that Botswana has adopted, according to Phumaphi. It too has proven to be
a success in increasing awareness of the fatal disease among the young.
Phumaphi mentioned that the program began as part of Botswana's Eighth
National Development Plan, which aims to reduce the country's teenage
pregnancy rate by 15 percent by March 2003. Already, HIV infection rates
have dropped below expected numbers, she said.