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Encourage tomorrow’s leaders to test

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Imagine if we were to live in a nation without young people. Though they are future leaders, what are we doing to ensure that the youth live long and healthy lives?

This week, I would like to discuss how we as a nation can ensure a healthy future for our young people by supporting them to test for HIV and begin treatment when they test HIV-positive. Botswana is doing a great job in providing free HIV testing and treatment in every district, enabling us to achieve the Global UNAIDS 90-90-90 Goals by 2020. These goals are that 90 percent of people living with HIV should be diagnosed; 90 percent of diagnosed people should be on anti-retroviral treatment, and 90 percent people in treatment should maintain viral suppression.

In June 2016, former President Ian Khama introduced the Treat All initiative, which allows any citizen who tests HIV positive to immediately enrol on treatment. This initiative is also being implemented in many other countries where it is called Test and Treat, or Universal Treatment. Treat All gives us the best out of life.

Those who are diagnosed with HIV these days can benefit immediately, unlike before when someone had to wait for their CD4 count to decline below 350 before accessing treatment (this decline showed that their immune system was being damaged and often would lead to serious illness). With Treat All, one is able to stay healthy and fit, and can continue doing all of their daily activities.

With Treat All, being HIV positive does not mean you will be ill, or lose weight, or have other visible symptoms. Treat All also preserves good health by reducing chances of getting opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis. When someone is newly diagnosed with HIV, they often struggle with the decision to disclose their status to others.

I don’t believe that everyone who has HIV must “go public” and tell the world about their status, but it is important that everyone accepts themselves as a first step. We are living in an era where many people know their HIV status, but some have avoided testing and do not know their status. In order to help these people who need to find the courage to test and accept themselves, I have joined this new initiative called the Treat All Champions.

As a Treat All Champion, I am here as the backbone of the youth who are either infected or affected by HIV. My mission is to reach those who haven’t tested before, or who have stopped testing regularly. I will also be supporting those who need to begin treatment and achieve viral suppression.

It is painful to see some who can’t enjoy the benefits of treatment just because they haven’t accepted themselves and are stigmatizing themselves. Ignorance is killing our ability to understand many things. We still have people in the health sector, health care workers and patients, who still lack important information on HIV-related issues.

I believe as a nation, we can do better to improve health literacy, and HIV treatment literacy, but it is also important that everyone strives to educate themselves about health issues. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s upon us, the youth, to take full charge of our future – we are tomorrow’s leaders. The future of this country is determined by us, so let’s wise up and do the right thing. Let’s not only focus on the country’s future, but our own, too.  Let’s take full responsibility for it. Together we can make it.

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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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JUST PROPAGANDA

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Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has refuted claims that she is under the radar of the Financial Intelligence Agency. Dr Venson-Moitoi who pulled out of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential race at the eleventh hour, was last week reported to have had her accounts frozen because she was being investigated by FIA.

It was alleged that the freezing of the accounts would have a negative bearing on her campaign as she could not access her funds. Responding to enquiries on the issue during a media briefing in Kang Village, Dr Venson-Moitoi said the allegations were far from the truth.

According to the former cabinet minister, all her accounts were clean and she was accessing her funds without any challenge. “The person who was saying all those things was lying. My accounts are clean as we speak. I was never confronted by FIA or anyone. As far as I know I am not under any investigations,” she said.

Linked to that, it had emerged that Dr Venson-Moitoi’s campaign was being funded from outside the country especially by the some rich families in South Africa. Reports then suggested that her source of funding was blocked through the intervention of FIA, and that even her accounts were frozen. She dismissed the reports as propaganda that was perhaps spread to soil her campaign.

“I am clean. This is why I am never mentioned in missing funds from National Petroleum Fund or those of Capital Management Botswana,” said the Serowe South Member of Parliament. Last month Dr Venson-Moitoi had reported to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General Peter Magosi that she was not happy that she is being followed around the country by security agents.

Magosi dismissed the claims on grounds that his organisation is not the only one that uses private motor vehicles.

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