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PrEp offers sex worker freedom of choice

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Bathabile Nyathi’s path to sex work began with a loss of power. Having lived through the worst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Nyathi was just a child when she lost her parents and many of her relatives to the scourge and by the time she was 13 years old, she had dropped out of school and was pregnant.

With no qualifications to speak of, she felt she had no choice but to be a sex worker to support herself and her baby.Countless times she says she has been raped, beaten and suffered other atrocious deeds while in the line of duty and a lot of time, she has no control when and if condoms are used with her clients, making HIV-prevention difficult.

But while she can’t stop the attacks or the unprotected sex, the 23 year old is committed to staying HIV-negative thanks to the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEp) pill that she has been taking every day for four years now. Scientific studies have shown that PrEp, a blue pill called Truvada, which is a combination of antiretroviral drugs taken once a day to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, is effective in protecting people from HIV during both anal and vaginal sex. “I really wanted to try using PrEP obviously for protection from HIV.

I don’t want my daughter to lose me and have to fend for herself like I have had to do. But more than anything I took it for peace of mind to get rid of the ‘what if’ feeling,” after every sexual encounter, Nyathi said in an interview on the sidelines of a Southern African Regional journalist training programme on HIV Prevention Research. She shared how she even feels better choosing to hustle for more money with condomless sex now that she has the extra protection of PrEp. “And ‘choosing’ is definitely the word,” she added. “I feel much more in control of my choices and there is no feeling of guilt or shame after having condom-less sex”. Nyathi is aware of the risk of other STIs when choosing condomless sex.

“The advantage of PrEP is that it is prescribed monthly along with an HIV test, pregnancy test and STI screening. This increased frequency of testing supports early detection and treatment of STIs,” she explained. Nyathi hopes that the increased use of PrEP could also help to change attitudes towards HIV and stigma towards people living with HIV. While prep hasn’t been rolled out yet in Botswana, Head of Programme, HIV/AIDS at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Bornapate Nkomo said this will be done hopefully before mid year. “We want to roll it out as soon as possible.

The committee that is spearheading the programme is just working on fine tuning implementation details,” he said. The programme will specifically target key populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, adolescent girls and mismatched couples. However, the drug is already available in private practices.

Botswana PrEp Ambassador, Beauty Tlhalerwa believes PrEP has a valuable place in sexual health risk management as well as reducing new HIV infections which stand at an estimated 10000 annually in the country. “We really need PrEp now if we want to end AIDS by 2030. Key populations should be the priority and the rest of the population should be assessed according to their risk profile so that it does not become an overly expensive exercise that we can’t sustain. “This is not to say people should now ignore condoms,” she said, adding that, “prevention is two-fold”.

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BMC secures beef market in Seychelles

Dikarabo Ramadubu

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Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) will soon start to sell its beef to the Island of Seychelles. Not only will they sell frozen raw meat, but will also send corned beef for trial in the Island.

All this is thanks to last week’s visit by President Mokgweetsi Masisi who included in his delegation executive management of the BMC, led by Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale.
The agreement signed between BMC and two leading Seychelles companies, will see BMC exporting at least 48 tonnes of raw beef to the island possibly from October. The names of the two companies that BMC signed an agreement with are Seychelles Trading Company which is a quasi-government organisation, and Rosebelle Company which is privately owned.

Although both have agreed to trade with each other, BMC cannot start immediately, as they have to wait for the green light from Seychelles companies who still have to apply for import permits in accordance with the law of their republic.

Speaking to The Midweek Sun, Tombale expressed gratitude that they managed to get good business in Seychelles through the assistance of President Masisi. “We are ready to export any time from now. As you know Seychelles is an island surrounded by mountains and cannot produce much if not anything. “They therefore depend much on imports even from as far as Brazil and Europe. Their economy is driven by tourism and they do not differ much with the European market in terms of the demand for beef as most tourists come from Europe and United States.”

Dr. Tombale said they agreed with the two companies that since “we are not sure about the logistics we will start by selling 24tonnes to each company per month, meaning we will be supplying the Island with a total of 48 tonnes per month. The idea is to start small and grow bigger as the people get used to our beef.” BMC has also negotiated to sell small stock meat to Seychelles and successfully negotiated for local chicken farmers to start selling their range chicken to Seychelles as well.

According to Tombale, he negotiated the deal after being approached by local chicken farmers amongst them Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete, who requested that “we should try to find a market for chicken farmers as we go around the world searching for the beef market.” Tombale revealed that for a start both range chickens and small stock will not be supplied in tonnes or large quantities as they will be sold on a trial basis.

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G-west community reunion-walk a resounding success

Keletso Thobega

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Multitudes turned up for the Mosengwaketsi community walk and braai session this past Saturday in Gaborone West. The walk was held in the morning and was preceded by football games and a braai session that went on until late in the evening.

According to the event director Tshenolo Palai, the aim of the community day event was to revive community spirit and address crime and social ills. “The Mosengwaketsi community reunion will be held not only to create a platform to build unity but also address the social ill of passion killings,” he said.

Palai said that they had also invited health stakeholders for a wellness segment because they had realised that there are many health related conditions that affect the quality of people’s lives hence they had joined forces with religious organisations, the business community, neighbourhood outreach policing and other stakeholders in the area to encourage a culture of unity and create dialogue between all the parties.

He noted that they had wanted to create a relaxed environment conducive for different people to engage and strengthen their networks. He said they were also concerned with the high rate of crimes of passion in Botswana and also wanted to create a platform for both men and women to open up on issues that affect them because most people tend to be more relaxed in a social setting.

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