Botswana: Limited HIV/AIDS information puts remote area dwellers at risk

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SELEBI PHIKWE - Limited access to information on the prevention of HIV/AIDS puts remote area dwellers at risk of contracting the virus, participants at the World AIDS Day commemoration in Selebi-Phikwe observed recently.

The event was organised by Selebi Phikwe DMSAC and Kagiso/ Sesame Ward Multi-Sectoral Aids Committee (WMSAC), in collaboration with the towns AIDS coordinating office.

A Community Conversation Enhancement Programme (CCEP) was used to engage the community to discuss the theme of the event.

Discussing the theme: Universal Access and Human Rights, participants said the information that sensitised the public about HIV/AIDS still remained inaccessible.

A lot of information is available to people in towns and big villages, one participant observed, while those staying at the lands and cattle posts are rarely reached by the same information.

They said concerted efforts must be made to ensure that activities aimed at sensitising the public about the spread of HIV, preventive strategies and available intervention programmes also reached remote area dwellers.

They said the situation existed because most organisations helping to fight the spread of HIV were concentrated in urban areas only. Also health facilities where people could access information and condoms were also found in towns and villages, they further noted.

Moreover, they said insufficient condom distribution in remote areas made the practice of safe sex in those places difficult.

However, they believed that access to treatment and HIV medication had sufficiently improved in Botswana. ARV facilities have been equitably spread across the country and most patients live within a five to 10 kilometres radius of facilities where they get their ARV supply, another participant said.

Giving a keynote address, Selebi Phikwe West MP, Mr Gilson Saleshando urged all stakeholders to devise strategies of insuring that anti-HIV information effectively reached the masses.

According to the Botswana AIDS Impact Survey III, Selebi-Phikwe ranked among the hardest hit areas in HIV/ AIDS prevalence, and the MP called on the towns community to guard against more infections.

He said the occasion called on everyone to reflect on what must be done to make sure transmission of the virus was stopped completely.

The MP encouraged people to test for the virus and know their status. Not testing and not knowing your status shows a lack of responsibility. Let us not lose lives unnecessarily while intervention programmes are available for people infected with the virus. Dont wait until it is too late, appealed the MP.

He also cautioned the public about the dangers of engaging in multiple concurrent sexual partnerships.

It is important to retrospect on our sexual morality. If you are HIV negative it is your responsibility to avoid getting infected.

Further, the MP called for an end to stigmatization of people who are HIV positive, saying it was unnecessary and irresponsible to stigmatize members of the society who lived with the virus.

We should treat HIV like any other ailment. After all, it is less dangerous compared to other diseases like hypertension and cancer, said Mr Saleshando. BOPA