By Tapela Morapedi
Held under the theme, “Communities make the difference,” the World AIDS Day (WAD) 2019 Commemoration was held at Maun Stadium on December 1st where the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) as a key stakeholder in the fight against HIV/AIDS joined the community and other key stakeholders in the HIV response.
BHP takes part in the commemoration every year as WAD is a special day to demonstrate solidarity and support for those people living with and affected by HIV, and to remember the loved ones who have succumbed to AIDS. The day provides the nation, an opportunity to introspect on its successes and challenges during the difficult journey that the country has encountered in it’s response to HIV/AIDS since 1985 when the first case of HIV infection was discovered in Botswana.
WAD also offers a platform to broaden advocacy to ensure HIV/AIDS remains high on the political agenda for policy makers empowered with positive impactful policy changes. The commemoration also offers an opportunity for stakeholders to share with the public their contribution in the fight against and ultimate goal eliminatio of HIV/AIDS.
The 2019 theme recognizes the essential role that various communities have and continue to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS at international, national and local level. The theme urges for greater involvement of all stakeholders including peer educators, networks of people living with or affected by HIV, key populations and vulnerable groups, counselors, community health workers and leaders, HIV treatment service providers, civil society organisations, grassroots activists as well as institutions like BHP.
The BHP team shared information with members of the public on the various research projects that BHP is undertaking in an effort to find innovative solutions to the many problems posed by HIV/AIDS and other emerging public health challenges.BHP showcased studies at the event were; Potlako and other Cancer studies, Early Infant Treatment (EIT), HPTN O84, AMBITION-cm and the Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP).
A day before WAD commemoration, the BHP team attended a Candle Light Memorial service at Maun Main Kgotla held in remembrance of all the people that have lost their dear lives due to HIV/AIDS. At this service, the Director of the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA)-formerly NACA, Richard Matlhare gave the overview of the HIV/AIDS situation in Botswana.
He revealed that after the first case of HIV/AIDS in the country was identified in 1985, Government instituted Community Home Based Care Volunteer programme throughout the country. The National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) was established to strengthen and mobilize multisectoral and civil Society Organisations response. Civil organisations continue to play conspicuous role since they are well positioned within communities at grassroots.