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Japanese NGOs offer Batswana orphans a lifetime chance

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A delegation of Ashinaga – a Japan-based non-profit organisation that provides educational and emotional support to orphaned students – will visit Botswana this week Thursday to Saturday to screen candidates for the 100-Year Vision Scholarship Program for 2018. An official of the Embassy of Japan in Botswana Uemura Yoshihiro said the representatives include Yoshihiro Imamura, the Director,  Ashinaga Uganda and Sarah Bourenane , Staff, Ashinaga USA. Imamura holds MA in Pubic Management and boasts 18 years in Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); one year with Ashinaga as well as six years with Local Government in Japan. In a brief to the media, Yoshihiro said that Ashinaga has supported over 95,000 orphans in the last 45 years, and many of its graduates are actively contributing to society in a variety of fields across the world.

Yoshihiro said that candidates in Botswana were identified after applications were opened from October to February and received via online platforms, email and post. The 100 Year-Vision scholarship programme began in 2014. It provides talented orphaned students from 35 Sub-Saharan African countries with the opportunity to apply for and to potentially pursue a higher education – at the level of undergraduate degree – at the world’s leading universities outside Africa in the US, UK, Japan and Brazil among others. The Botswana candidates – exclusively orphans – will thus be subjected to document screening as a first selection process of the short-listing and then high school results will be considered including their willingness to contribute to their society through essay writing will be screened, said Yoshihiro. Through education, Ashinaga hopes to empower its students to make the change that they wish to see in their communities, countries, and Africa as a whole. The Ashinaga representatives will conduct interviews with the shortlisted candidates at the Embassy of Japan on Friday 13th April 2018.

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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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