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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Wed, 16 May 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Wed, 16 May 2001

'NewsHour' Examines Anti-HIV/AIDS Efforts in Botswana in Second of 
Four-Part Series on AIDS in Africa

In the second installment of a four-part series on AIDS in Africa, 
"NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" reporter Elizabeth Farnsworth examines the 
AIDS crisis in Botswana, where nearly 36% of sexually active adults 
are HIV-positive and some estimate that the country's overall life 
expectancy has been reduced by 20 to 40 years. Botswana is relatively 
prosperous by sub-Saharan African standards, with a per capita annual 
income of $3,700 compared to an average income of $300 in much of the 
region. A flourishing diamond market and relative political stability 
have kept the standard of living higher, but the good transportation 
infrastructure and increased mobility of the population may contrib-
ute to the spread of HIV among the country's population of 1.6 mil-
lion, according to the report. Farnsworth details the country's ef-
forts to test pregnant women and reduce vertical transmission through 
a pilot program offering expectant women the option of taking the 
drug AZT. Dr. Tom Kenyon of the CDC estimates that nearly 24,000 HIV-
positive women deliver babies every year in Botswana. With a trans-
mission rate of 40%, an estimated 9,600 children are born with HIV 
every year. Hospitals in seven of the country's 24 health districts 
offer AZT as part of the two-year pilot program, and Dr. Loeto Maz-
hani, head of the program, would like to see it implemented nation-
wide by December. Currently, the drug is supplied at a reduced price 
with assistance from its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, and UNICEF. 
However, many women refuse to be tested for the virus even though 
they risk transmitting the virus to their child, with some citing the 
fear of stigma as the reason. In an effort to protect more infants, 
the government announced last month that it will give the drugs to 
all pregnant women who want them, regardless of whether or not they 
have been tested for HIV. Some women who do not have the virus may 
take the drugs, but officials say that the risk is "outweighed by the 
benefits." Although Botswana has taken steps to protect infants, lit-
tle has been done to protect their parents and other adults already 
infected with HIV until now. The government "promised" in March to 
provide antiretroviral medications to "all who need them" to help 
citizens live longer lives. Without such efforts, President Festus 
Mogae said, Botswanans "face no less than extinction" (Farnsworth, 
"NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/15). 

c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser Family Foundation. 
All rights reserved.

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