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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | BOTSWANA: More funds need to curb HIV/AIDS-related child deaths | Children | Breaking News
Wednesday 10 May 2006
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BOTSWANA: More funds need to curb HIV/AIDS-related child deaths

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


More HIV postive children need access to treatment

JOHANNESBURG, 20 April (PLUSNEWS) - More resources could help curb the increasing number of children dying of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses in Botswana, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"If Botswana had more HIV testing facilities for children aged below 18 months we would have been able to put more children on treatment as soon as possible, which would have helped to reduce infant mortality," said Kutloano Leshomo, UNICEF's spokeswoman in the capital, Gaborone.

The UN agency's recent report, 'State of the World's Children 2006' noted with concern the rise in Botswana's infant mortality rate - up from 17 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2001.

Leshomo added that HIV testing for infants, "which is extremely expensive" was only available at two medical facilities in the country: the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Center of Excellence in the capital, Gaborone, and a government hospital in Francistown, the country's second city.

According to the UNICEF report, which focused on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), only 5,000 of the country's 10,000 to 20,000 orphans living with HIV/AIDS are on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

A study by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA), conducted with UNICEF support in 2004, found that more than six percent of children aged from 18 months to four years and teenagers aged from 15 to 19 were HIV positive.

Botswana has one the world's highest HIV prevalence rates - at more than 33 percent - among pregnant women aged between 15 and 49. Leshomo pointed out that only 73 percent of them had access to HIV treatment clinics, but noted, "We are working towards universal access, which would make a tremendous impact."

Although the government provides ARV treatment freely, she said one of the major barriers to reaching more women was Botswana's patriarchal society. "Men make decisions on whether their partners should access ARVs, so we have been devoting campaigns exclusively to increasing men's involvement in the treatment process to mobilise support."

The HIV prevalence rate among adults in Botswana - the world's second highest - is estimated at more than 37 percent, and is one of the main reasons for the number of OVC. There are just over 111,000 orphans in a total population of about 1.6 million, but only half the orphans are receiving support - in the form of food, clothing and schooling - due to a lack of government capacity and resources.

However, the government has disputed the UN agency's figure because of its definition of 'orphan'.

The government only considers children who have lost both parents as orphans, but the UN agency's definition takes into account the loss of either parent. According to Leshomo, "We are in talks with the government on this issue, but they recognise that the loss of either parent does make the child vulnerable and in need of support."


Recent BOTSWANA Reports
Routine HIV testing not as straightforward as it sounds,  31/Jan/06
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
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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