By Tapela Morapedi
As part of the commitment to fight against HIV/AIDS and emerging public health challenges through innovative research, education and capacity building that impacts on policy and practice, BHP participated at the National Commemoration of World AIDS Day (WAD) held in Mochudi on December 01. It commemorated the day by putting up a stall to interact with, engage and educate the public on its role in combating HIV as a research institute.
Giving the keynote address at the commemoration, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said that WAD is a day for the nation to introspect and reenergize efforts in dealing with an enemy whose existence, at one time was not understood but Batswana are now knowledgeable about and empowered to tackle it head on. BHP’s participation at the commemoration was anchored on expanding HIV knowledge as way of empowering Batswana to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS.
A large number of people visited the stall to learn how BHP inspires HIV discoveries through innovative Science Research and how its breakthroughs have informed national policy on HIV/AIDS treatment. BHP team engaged with the public the role that scientific research plays in developing efficient treatment and prevention methodologies in the ongoing fight against HIV. The discussions helped to enhance public knowledge of not only the role of BHP but also knowledge on the dynamics and approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
To demonstrate that indeed BHP offers perspectives on effective HIV prevention and treatment, the team discussed with the public some of its ongoing studies. The studies included HPTN 084 which is the first study to test whether an injection of cabotegravir given once every two months works as well as or better than Truvada pill taken daily for HIV prevention in women. Other studies included Potlako which aims to save lives through faster cancer diagnosis and initiation of treatment. Potlako is an initiative to reduce delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment linkages of cancer patients. Another study addressing non-communicable diseases is Tshidilo Dikotla which speaks to how the body metabolises sugar.
Other studies included IMPAACT 2010 addressing issues of Dolutegravir drug (DTG) in pregnant women, REPRIVE which is a randomised trial on heart diseases to prevent vascular events in HIV positive people, Tsepamo which is a surveillance of pregnancy outcomes in women in antiretroviral therapy as well as services offered by the Botswana Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory (BHHRL).The other one is AMBITION which compares the current treatment which takes a longer period against a shorter course treatment for Cryptococcal Meningitis.
President Masisi revealed that the national HIV incidence rate of 1.35 percent is estimated to be fluctuating between 10 000 and 14 000 per year. He pointed out that “the only indicator that would show that we are heading the right direction would be the time when we start recording zero new infections.”
To achieve zero infections, BHP and all other stakeholders have to actively continue playing their part in the fight against the HIV/AIDS endemic.