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Article: Botswana's Health Minister Meets with U.S. Secretary of State Powell and Phumaphi discuss HIV/AIDS


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 effective prevention." 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 baby. "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.


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Information in this article was accurate in February 6, 2002. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.