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BOTSWANA: US $ 35 million boost for anti-AIDS efforts

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

GABORONE, 9 March (PLUSNEWS) - Botswana's anti-AIDS efforts are to receive an injection of US $35 million from the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The funds, to be channelled through the Botswana and USA partnership (BOTUSA), will be used to provide critical technical and financial support for HIV testing, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, antiretroviral treatment, palliative care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, said Gregory Kelebonye, BOTUSA's communication officer.

The PEPFAR programme was initiated by US President George W. Bush in 2003, when he pledged $15 billion for tackling HIV/AIDS around the world.

"Botswana is one of the 15 countries that are getting funds under the US President Emergency Plan, and we are closely working with the US embassy in the country to plan, implement and coordinate the initiative," said Kelebonye.

As part of the project, BOTUSA is currently working with a local scientific reference group to prepare for the clinical trials of microcides that women can apply before having sexual intercourse to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexual infections.

"We are also in the process of initiating a controlled clinical trial to determine whether taking Tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug, could prevent HIV infection in healthy, HIV negative, sexually active young people," Kelebonye said.

The drug is said to stop HIV infected cells from replicating. Kelebonye said Tenofovir would be tested on 1,200 volunteers aged between 18 and 21 years over a period of three years.

The BOTUSA programme was initiated in 1995 as a partnership between the Botswana National TB Programme and the Centres for Disease Control, run by the US department of health and human services. It conducts public health research and programmes combating tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Clincial trials of Tenofovir were scrapped in Cambodia and Cameroon following ethical concerns over how the trials were being conducted. AIDS activists in Cameroon and France alleged that the female volunteers taking part had not been sufficiently informed of the risks involved, and would not receive any healthcare if they become infected with HIV during the course of the trial.


Recent BOTSWANA Reports
Baby steps in bringing down teen pregnancy,  10/Nov/05
The ABC of Masturbation,  5/Jul/05
Red tape stymies media spreading anti-AIDS message ,  26/May/05
Tenofovir trials to start soon - despite controversy,  30/Mar/05
Anti-AIDS drugs for armed forces,  10/Mar/05
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