Botswana Federation of Trade Unions has noted that Botswana’s HIV prevalence according to the UNAIDS Data report of 2017 was the third highest globally, following Swaziland and Lesotho in 2016 In 2017, the Botswana SPECTRUM data of 2018 also concurred and showed that HIV prevalence among people aged 15 years and older in Botswana was 23.7%, with prevalence among women being 27.2% in comparison to 20.3% among men. In the same year, there were an estimated 378,193 persons of all ages living with HIV, comprising 215,361 females and 162,832 males. HIV prevalence among people aged 15-24 years was 8.4% in 2017 with females having higher prevalence (11.2 %) than males 5.6%. A total of 34,742 people were living with HIV in this age group of whom 66% (23,089) were female. About 9,018 children aged 0-14 were also living with HIV.
New HIV infections in Botswana reached a peak of 33,000 in 1995 after which infections started declining reaching about 12,000 annual infections in 2006. However, since 2010, new HIV infections increased by 4% (from 12,381 in 2010 to 13,191 in 2017). This reversal of the declining trend threatens the achievement of epidemic control and shows urgent need to reinvigorate HIV prevention strategies.
HIV prevalence in Botswana varies considerably among districts. Prevalence ranges from 13.3% in Hukuntsi district to 33.4% in Mahalapye district. Higher HIV prevalence in some districts has been attributed to mining, which separates families and exposes mineworkers and their partners to higher-risk sexual behaviours.
The reports also indicated that as a result of a sustained HIV response, Botswana has been ranked among the countries which have nearly achieved the HIV treatment cascade targets globally. By 2017, an estimated 86% (310,000) of people living with HIV in Botswana knew their HIV status, 84% were on antiretroviral treatment and 81% were virally suppressed (280,000). The mother to child transmission rate for HIV declined from 3.9% in 2010 to 1%, and annual new HIV infections declined from a peak of 33,000 in 1990s to around 13,000 in 2017.
While these achievements signal progress in combating the HIV epidemic, more work needs to be done.
It is evident that annual new HIV infections increased by about 4% between 2010 and 2017 after more than a decade of decline. Adolescents and young people, particularly girls and young women, were estimated to have contributed to more than a third of new HIV infections, adult men and women in unions to over a quarter of new infections, and single men to 14.1%.
Uptake of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) uptake by men and adolescents and young people lags behind that of women. Key populations (Female Sex Workers and Men who have Sex with Men) continue to face social and structural hurdles in accessing HIV services while non-citizens have limited access to HIV treatment due to policy barriers.
The HIV epidemic has shifted from being generalized throughout Botswana to a number of micro-epidemics impacting on different populations in different ways. This dimension of the epidemic presents different challenges that cannot be effectively addressed without modifications of strategy. This third National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework (NSF) lays out strategies to develop micro-responses that provide HIV service packages tailored to prioritized populations in prioritized locations, to ensure that no one is left behind. Secondly, the NSF III sets ambitious goals and targets that firmly place Botswana on the last sprint towards achieving epidemic control by 2023 and ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
BFTU in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, UNAIDS intend to reinvigorate the fight against HIV/AIDS by Scaling-up access to VCT@Work Services for Young Men in the World of Work in Botswana.
Young men are being targeted for these activities because of the statistics and the need for young men to be encouraged to test more and in large numbers.
We will be running two workshops in December;
The first one on the 12th December 2019 in Adansonia Francistown and the second one in Gaborone during the first month of the new year..
There will be a series of activities during the festive season geared at promoting testing services targeting the youth.
We urge workers to join the fight against HIV/AIDS and enjoy the festive season responsibly as we take a stand in avoiding new HIV infections.