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PrEP to the rescue

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Life challenges drove Bathabile Nyathi to sex work at a tender age, but she is thankful she has been able to avoid HIV infection because of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEp) pill she is taking.

This is an HIV prevention pill that the ministry of health hopes to have rolled out throughout Botswana by mid-year as the country strives to step up its prevention campaigns with a view of annihilating AIDS and resultant deaths by 2030. 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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VACANCY: President of the UDC

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Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Advocate Sidney Pilane says Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) does not have a President.

He revealed this week that UDC leader, Advocate Duma Boko was given the leadership of the coalition on a temporary arrangement. Advocate Pilane who was addressing the media this week, following the expulsion of his party from the UDC stated that in the buildup to 2014 general elections it was agreed that Advocate Boko should be presidential candidate for UDC, an arrangement that ended at the time when the UDC lost the 2014 general elections.

“It was decided that Botswana National Front (BNF) should be given the presidency so that Advocate Boko could be our presidential candidate. The late Gomolemo Motswaledi of BMD was to be his running mate. We made this arrangement in preparation to taking over state power.

So, all that has passed, we contested and lost so it is all in the past,” said the BMD leader. He stated that constitutionally, the UDC has no president because the president has to be elected during the UDC elective congress. Advocate Pilane pointed out that UDC according to the Constitution should hold its congress every three (3) years.

He stated that even all the members of UDC National Executive Committee have to be elected at the congress and as it stands, “there is no president or Vice Presidents because they were not voted into those positions.”

Advocate Pilane said instead of building the UDC brand their colleagues at Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana National Front have resorted to petty issues. He told the media that the leadership of the two parties have taught their members to insult BMD leadership and its members on social media and any other forum.

He had no kind words for the BCP, calling the party a divisive party that thrives on insults and divisive tendencies. He said the BCP leadership had encouraged its foot soldiers to use social media to insult him and members of the BMD.

According to Advocate Pilane, these are some of the things that have made the two parties remain in opposition for far too long without even coming close to toppling the ruling party. He described them as dishonest people who will plunge the country into chaos and that is why Batswana do not want to give them power.

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VIDEO: A Gaborone hotel Prophet caught in the act

Yvonne Mooka

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In a matter that closely resembles that of a South African Cabinet Minister, Melusi Gigaba’s masturbating video clip, a visiting Zimbabwean Prophet, Ronald El Melchizedek of Altar of Grace this week denied that he has been sending nudes to church sisters and demanding same from them.

In fact, the ‘man of God’ has earned himself the name, ‘Botswana’s Omotoso’ by girls that allege he has sexually exploited them. Pastor Timothy Omotoso is a Nigerian clergyman accused of sexually exploiting over 30 young girls from his church in South Africa.

“He is an Omotoso and even though they hide it at his church, some of us have received messages from him asking for our nudes. Actually, he has asked for my nudes several times,” says one church sister.

The Midweek Sun has gotten hold of a 34 seconds video clip of the youthful prophet playing with his manhood. Looking like he is in a hotel room, the man stands fully naked in a muted video that, depicts him speaking and teasing the recipient. In a standing position, he starts off by caressing his manhood, giving it a close up and ends up lying on the bed, facing up.

At least three young women say they received the video from the prophet and that he usually asks for nudes from them. One of them actually says he has been pestering her, demanding to have sex with her. “He likes to send me messages of how horny he is for me. But again, he likes asking for nudes from women.

Even married women at his church have fallen victims of his sexual harassment. I left the church because he disgusted me by doing such things yet calling himself a man of God,” she says.

The woman however says that Melchizedek, a Zimbabwean who holds services at Gaborone Hotel when he is in the country, is a man of accurate prophecies. “He moves mightily in the prophetic but he likes harassing church sisters. It is known in his church. He is married but controlled by the spirit of lust,” she says.

The Prophet responds
Melchidezek told The Midweek Sun that he was aware of the video of him doing the rounds through WhatsApp, but was quick to label the whole thing a scam.“Yes we are aware. Those are scammers from Benin who hacked into my wife’s Facebook account and phone and stole our videos and pictures. So they wanted to blackmail us and we refused, that is why they are doing that.

It is just an effort to harm the work of God but God is in control,” he told The Midweek Sun. He would not be drawn into responding to, or even discussing the allegations levelled against him by church sisters, but instead gave this reporter a mobile number of a person he said was his wife.

The said woman confirmed that the video was posted by scammers. “That was done by scammers. We have reported them to Benin police,” she said. She however would not give the name of the police station nor go into further details.

This incident follows on last week’s revelations reported by this publication, where several girls spoke anonymously about pastors, prophets and ‘men of God’who were using them sexually in church. Many were uncomfortable to reveal their names, forcing this paper to also conceal the identies of the accused churches and pastors involved in the dirty acts in the name of God.

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