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Integrated Regional Information Network
Botswana: A timeline of HIV action

January 18, 2012
Integrated Regional Information Networks - January 18, 2012

JOHANNESBURG, 18 January 2012 (PlusNews) - Botswana has marked many "firsts" in Africa's fight against the HI virus. IRIN/PlusNews details the most important events in its battle: 1984 - Botswana diagnoses its first patient with HIV; 1987 - The country develops the first of many national plans to tackle HIV and AIDS; 1995 - As HIV cases mount, it introduces a national community home-based care programme to complement the over-stretched health system and medical staff shortage compounded by the lack of a national medical school; 1999 - The country establishes the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA). It also introduces prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), a first in Africa, with initial pilot sites in the capital, Gaborone, and Francistown. In a little less than a decade, about 90 percent of Botswana's HIV-positive pregnant women and their babies will benefit from PMTCT services; 2000 - The World Health Organization estimates that 85 percent of 15-year-olds in Botswana will eventually die of AIDS-related illnesses.

2001 - The Debswana mining company, a joint venture between mining conglomerate De Beers and the Botswana government, becomes the first business in the world to provide free ARV treatment to its employees, spouses and their children younger than 21. As of November, all health facilities are reportedly providing PMTCT services; 2002 - After making bulk purchases of the three drug combinations needed to treat HIV, the government launches the Masa, or "A New Dawn" in the local Setswana, HIV treatment programme. Training of nurses and what are largely foreign contract doctors in HIV diagnosis and treatment begins. The country also becomes the first in southern Africa, a region hard-hit by HIV, to provide free treatment to its citizens; 2003 - First national strategic plan on HIV, as recommended by UNAIDS. The plan runs until 2009. About 7 percent of adults and children needing HIV treatment are estimated to be on ARVs; 2004 - Voluntary counselling and HIV rapid testing (VCT) is introduced, a major boost to PMTCT efforts in which VCT for expecting mothers is task-shifted away from nurses and midwives to lay counsellors. By 2007, the country has also introduced the dried blood spot HIV testing needed to diagnose babies born to HIV-positive mothers; 2005 - With universal HIV education in schools, about 40 percent of young men and women know how to prevent HIV infection. Meanwhile, about a third of all pregnant women are found to be HIV-positive, according to government surveys; 2006 - Ministry of Finance announces that condoms will be added to the list of tax-exempt items, cutting their cost; 2009 - NACA launches a programme to address multiple concurrent partnerships, thought to be a HIV risk factor, while the Ministry of Health begins rolling out medical male circumcision. After years of lobbying by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and local AIDS and human rights groups, the government agrees in April to relax a policy that explicitly bars non-citizens from accessing HIV treatment; 2010 - At a cost of almost US$350 million, Botswana achieves universal access targets with more than 80 percent of HIV-positive adults and children on ARVs. The second national strategic plan is launched, to run until 2016. The government also passes an amendment to its Employment Act ending workplace dismissal based on an individual's sexual orientation or HIV status; 2011 - The country attracts criticism after government refuses to provide HIV-positive foreign nationals in its prisons with HIV treatment.

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