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Batswana should remain hopeful for HIV cure – BIUST lecturer

Keletso Thobega

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Mr Gaobotse

Batswana should remain hopeful that a cure for HIV could be found. This was said by lecturer in stem cell biology at BIUST, Dr. Goabaone Gaobotse, on the backdrop of claims that a cure for HIV/AIDS had been found following global reported that a man had been healed of HIV through stem cell surgery in the UK. This revelation has not only brought hope to many but also exposed a different dimension to the power of science.

Although naysayers in the medical fraternity have shot down the stem cell procedure HIV cure claims, in a recent interview with The Midweek Sun Gaobotse noted that the recent findings indicated that stem cells could actually be harvested from people who have natural immunity to HIV and then be transplanted into people with HIV. “These people will also develop that immunity and the virus ultimately goes into remission.

The only challenge here (in the case of UK patient) is that this treatment worked because the particular patient was also undergoing chemotherapy for their cancer. What is essential is for scientists to devise a way that they can do the stem cell transplant efficiently without the added treatment of chemotherapy irradiation. This is because applying chemotherapy on otherwise non-cancerous cells would very toxic to those cells. Botswana is one of the leading countries in incidences of HIV/AIDS,” he explained.

Despite investment in education on HIV prevention such as abstinence, condom use and monogamous sexual relations among others, HIV/AIDS continues to infect, affect lives and kill many people in Africa. In 2016, there were 360, 000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. During that period, Botswana had the third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after Swaziland and Lesotho.
Gaobotse said that alarmingly high statistics that necessitate instantaneous action to remedy the status quo.

“Although antiretroviral drugs are readily provided by the government, stem cell therapy offers a more perpetual approach to halting the HIV/AIDS scourge. Botswana would benefit incalculably because the government spends a lot of money on HIV/AIDS treatment for her citizens,” he said. He further said that the use of stem cells is regulated because it involves cells and tissues of human origin. “The requisite legislation is the one that will avert the abuse of people to acquire stem sells.

There are unscrupulous medical scientists who may pay off people to get pregnant so that they could harvest embryonic stem cells from their embryos. Legislation is imperative in that regard. Embryonic stem cells should always be used with the consent of the donor. The donor is legally informed about exactly what will happen to the Stem Cells that they donate,” he said.

Gaobotse further explained that stem cells could be transformed into any cell type, which meant that they have the potential to cure any type of disease such as cancer, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and other conditions. “Stem cell research and therapy is a relatively new branch of medicine that offers so much potential.

It is important for Botswana to invest in this new technology in order to reap not only the health benefits but other benefits as well. Stem cell research would inter alia create jobs for Batswana and also allow our own citizens to partake in this growing and fascinating branch of medicine. Stem cell research is the future of medicine and it would remiss for our country to not invest in it.”

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

The MidweekSun Admin

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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