Botswana

Real lives

Mother and child benefit from Botswana government’s resolve to fight HIV/AIDS

When Dineo, a single mother in Gaborone, Botswana, found out she was pregnant in the spring of 1999, she was terrified. Dineo has tested positive for HIV and she was afraid she would give the virus to her child.

Through a nurse at an antenatal clinic, Dineo learned about a programme in Gaborone that aimed to prevent mothers from spreading the virus to their children by providing the anti-retroviral drug AZT. The programme was one of two mother-to-child transmission pilot projects sponsored by the Botswana government and UNICEF. The drugs, donated to UNICEF by the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome, were administered to Dineo during her labour, and given to her baby, Noineelo, for four weeks.

Because almost all of Botswana has access to clean drinking water, Dineo was counseled not to breastfeed and was given a year’s worth of baby formula. Although she would not know the status of her child for another 18 months, she knew that she had halved the chances of passing on the virus – no small achievement in a country that has highest HIV prevalence in the world.

Some 28 per cent of Botswana’s 1.6 million population are estimated to be HIV-positive. To fight the epidemic, the government of Botswana has taken an aggressive stance, allocating substantial human and financial resources to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Since Dineo visited the pilot project, the Botswana government has integrated the programme into all of its antenatal clinics. In December 2001, the government took the unprecedented step of announcing that it would provide free anti-retroviral therapy to anyone who tested positive for HIV. 


 

 

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