By Zayamu Hassan
By attaining ‘Silver tier,’ Bostwana is getting closer to eliminating Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV/AIDS syndrome.
Botswana is said to be among the high-burden countries with huge number of children living with HIV.
Globally, 15 countries have been certified for eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. None of them had an epidemic as large as Botswana.
However, it is the first high-burden country to be certified for achieving an important milestone on the path to eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by the World Health Organization (WHO).
High-burden HIV countries are defined as those with more than 2 per cent of pregnant women living with the virus. Botswana has achieved the “silver tier” status, which moves it closer to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission.
WHO awards this certification to countries which have brought the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate to under 5 per cent; provided antenatal care and antiretroviral treatment to more than 90 per cent of pregnant women; and achieved an HIV case rate of fewer than 500 per 100,000 live births.
Reacting on the milestone achievement, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “This is a huge accomplishment for a country that has one of the most severe HIV epidemics in the world – Botswana demonstrates that an AIDS-free generation is possible.
“This ground-breaking milestone is a big step forward in ending AIDS on the continent and shows how visionary political leadership aligned with public health priorities can save lives. I look forward to other African countries also reaching this goal.”
In 1999 and facing an HIV prevalence rate as high as 30%, Botswana initiated an aggressive programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
“Botswana’s pathfinding accomplishment demonstrates the remarkable progress that can be achieved when the needs of mothers living with HIV and their children are prioritized.
“Children are among the groups left furthest behind in the HIV response. Addressing this inequality and preventing new HIV infections in children is critical if we are to end AIDS. Political commitment, strong leadership and the hard work of dedicated health care workers and communities in Botswana have delivered impressive results,” said Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director.
It would be recalled that in 2013, Botswana became one of the first countries in the world to implement the so-called ‘Option B+’, a plan for treating all pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV with a highly effective lifelong triple antiretroviral treatment regimen at the time of diagnosis.
Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, asserted that the country’s progress could serve as an example for others.
According to him: “We applaud Botswana for this remarkable achievement, which serves as inspiration to other countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
“The progress on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in this region is truly a public health success, with more than 1.7 million new infections in children averted since 2010.
“We look forward to congratulating other countries very soon and continuing the journey to full and sustained elimination over time,” Mr Fall said.