All public health facilities to offer HIV testing
Tuesday 18 May 2004
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BOTSWANA: All public health facilities to offer HIV testing

GABORONE, 20 October (PLUSNEWS) - In a bid to encourage people to begin anti-AIDS treatment early, Botswana will introduce routine HIV testing at all public health facilities next year, President Festus Mogae said on Friday.

"It is expected that all patients presenting with symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS will be routinely offered an HIV test, with the opportunity to opt out should they so desire. The same will take place at antenatal clinics, and clinics where sexually transmitted infections are treated," Mogae said.

"Let me hasten to emphasise that testing will not be compulsory, but routine with consent. Further, respect to privacy and confidentiality will continue to be maintained," he added.

Out of a population of 1.7 million, an estimated 300,000 Batswana are infected with HIV, of whom 110,000 are believed to be at the stage where they are in need of antiretroviral therapy.

But the success of anti-AIDS programmes has been adversely affected by the reluctance of Batswana to know their HIV status.

Despite the provision of free, confidential, same-day testing countrywide by the Tebelopele Voluntary Testing and Counselling Centre, only 65,000 people have made use of the facilities. As a result, people have tended to go on ARV therapy much too late, causing an unnecessary burden on the public health system. Over 60 percent of bed occupancy in clinics is HIV/AIDS related.

Ketlhomilwe Moletsane, executive secretary of the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, applauded the government's move. "I think it is stimulating people to come forward and test for HIV/AIDS. It will be consensus based and will not be compulsory," he told PlusNews. "The programmes for [AIDS] intervention are not being used to the fullest right now."

The government's decision on testing was based on the recommendation of the National AIDS Council. It was also designed to destigmatise the virus by compelling Batswana to confront the threat posed by the epidemic.

"I invite the private sector to also consider introducing routine testing in their facilities. I wish to also appeal to various sectors to encourage as many people as possible to test and know their status. One possible avenue is routine testing before a major life event, such as marriage," said Mogae.

[ENDS]

Recent BOTSWANA Reports

Need to make men more sexually responsible, 12/Apr/04
New voluntary testing centre opens, 7/Apr/04
Caregivers manual launched, 5/Apr/04
Few women accessing PMTCT services, 23/Mar/04
Interview with Dr Ndwapi Ndwapi, director of Princess Marina Hospital's ARV programme , 11/Mar/04

Links

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
AEGIS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

PARTNERS

PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

  • UNAIDS

  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)

  • SAfAIDS

  • PANOS

  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development
    Network

  • GTZ/Afronets


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