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Life can be such a drag without an ID

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Baluse Mmopedi an old man residing in Loologane, a sandveld 60km from Otse village in the Central District, cannot get old age pension because he does not have a national identity card.

He struggles to get a meal for the day. Mmopedi came to Loologane as a young man to look for a job as a herdboy. When he turned 16 years old his parents did not get him an ID card and he just went on without one. He has long passed 65 years old and is aware that he qualifies to benefit from the state-funded pension for the elderly because he sees some of his age-mates benefitting.

He says he was born at the time when people were being conscripted to join the Second World War. Oreneile Ramosesane, 22, lives at Tidimalo cattlepost, some 65km from Mosolotshane village. He looks after his master’s small stock. Ramosesane, like Mompedi, does not have an ID. He says he does not have a fare to travel to the village (Moralane) to process the ID card.

Ramosesane left school at a tender age to eke out a living in the cattlepost. He says that he hardly gets the time to travel to the village and that’s why he failed to get an ID when his age-mates found the chance.

Acting Registration Superintendent of the Central Region Oitsile Mapeu made it clear that he is aware that they need to visit the sandvelds to help Batswana acquire national ID cards.

While he admitted it was their duty to make frequent visits to the sandvelds, he said their biggest challenge was transport and funds. He said they realised that even some newborn babies in the sandvelds don’t have birth certificates as most time some parents just decide to give birth in their homes.

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Three months more

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INTERCHANGE WORKS: Work at the Boatle Interchange continues as the entire project nears completion set for April

Following numerous postponements, the dual carriageway between Game City in Gaborone and Boatle near Ramotswa will be opened for full use in April this year. Currently motorists are using the newly-constructed half of the four-lane stretch as work on rehabilitating and reconstructing the old side that will form the western carriageway continues.

Construction of the eastern plane of the Boatle interchange and bridges at Tloane and Metsimaswaane rivers has been completed and the entire eastern carriageway from Gaborone to Boatle is open for traffic.

The department of transport recently released a media statement confirming that completion of the road was at 77 percent and that the hope is that it will be fully completed by April 2019.
This will come as music to the ears of travellers who have been frustrated by the seemingly endless construction on the road and the slow movement of traffic particularly during peak hours just before and after working hours. The department has however cautioned that drivers should still remain vigilant, drive carefully and obey road signs.

Meanwhile, some motorists have complained that construction of the road has taken too long and that there is little order on the road. “These people are way behind schedule and we can’t see what they are doing. Also, there is no order on the road. Once you get to the side of Mokolodi, traffic comes to a complete standstill. They should try and push work at slow hours and not at peak hour,” said Mmoloki Obuditswe, who commutes between Lobatse and Gaborone daily.

He however expressed hope that traffic would ease near the Boatle junction as cars headed to Ramotswa would break off easily without delaying those headed for Lobatse. “The cars going to Ramotswa used to cause a headache because they are so many and the road was thin and in a bad state,” he said.

Another motorist, Kutlwano Seemo noted that while the opening of the road was a welcome development that shows progress, it would have been great if the dual carriageway went all the way to Lobatse.

“They should have fixed the whole A1 road and not a brief stretch. This road is terrible and it continues to claim many lives. Traffic has increased so we need wider and more sophisticated roads. I hope government prioritises investing in road infrastructure because we honestly don’t have good roads. Maybe this Boatle road will be a start.”

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U=U campaign packaging a headache for BHP, Ministry

Rachel Raditsebe

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TRICKY AFFAIR: Dr Joseph Makhema is still cautious on the matter of declaring the Undetectable to be Untransmittable

While there is no denying the proven science that an HIV positive person whose HIV viral load cannot be detected cannot transmit it to an HIV negative person, it is how that message is packaged and delivered to the public that is proving to be a difficulty.

This is according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) Dr Joseph Makhema.Internationally, the Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign, has gained ground as scientific consensus has united around the concept that being undetectable means being unable to transmit HIV. The campaign has been endorsed by more than 350 HIV organisations from 34 countries, including leading scientific and medical organisations such as the International AIDS Society (IAS), UNAIDS, and the British HIV Association (BHIVA).

By taking HIV treatment consistently and on time, the HIV virus in the blood (also known as viral load) and other bodily fluids gets to undetectable levels. The drugs work by controlling the replication of HIV in the body by reducing the virus’ ability to make copies of itself.

“The drugs slow down the damage that the virus does to the immune system and allow people to live long, productive lives like everyone else without succumbing to the disease. These drugs are tremendously valuable in giving an excellent quality of life and preventing HIV transmission. There is absolutely no doubt that HIV treatment has revolutionised AIDS,” Dr Makhema explained.

However, he said for now BHP and the Health Ministry are still looking at the context and messaging of U=U and how to package it for the public. This, he explained is because, there are situations whether of illness, for example if someone has flu, they can get an exacerbation of viral rebound.

Or somebody gets a gastro intestinal disorder and they have diarrhoea or vomiting, they cannot keep the medication in their system. This would mean they are not fully able to keep the virus fully supressed and they can rebound.

“So we really don’t know at this point in time, we really need to have research done so that we are able to know how we are going to package and share the U=U messaging with the general public,” stated Dr Makhema.

According to Dr Makhema, the only time he would ever give anyone the go ahead to have unprotected sex is only if there was a test where before each sexual act, a person can check their viral load.
Until then he insists on condom use even with the other HIV prevention tools currently available like Safe Male Circumcision and more recently, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

“While we have got the tools to not only end the fear of HIV, but to end it as an epidemic, it’s important how we package that information so that our people really understand how they work,” Dr Makhema said.

Citing the condom as an example, Dr Makhema said that new infections are still high even though condoms are cheap, readily available and have been proven to be over 99 percent effective if used correctly at not only preventing HIV infection but also other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Overall, Dr Makhema said there was need for clear guidance on how individuals should be advised on using “treatment as prevention” as a safer sex option and this should be combined with renewed efforts to encourage condom use.

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