AFRICA/BOTSWANA - Providing ARVs to refugees

Monday, 6 September 2010

Gaborone (Agenzia Fides) - Botswana was the first country in southern Africa to roll out an antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme, which now has almost universal coverage, but is among the last to include its relatively small refugee population. Botswana has asked the US government to fund a parallel program for the approximately 3,400 refugees at Dukwi, who are mostly from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Somalia. So far, about 170 refugees have started ARV treatment and a further 65 are being monitored in a programme implemented by the Botswana Red Cross, with oversight by UNHCR and funding from the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services are now also available to HIV-positive pregnant women in the camp. From 2004 until 2009, a government-run clinic at Dukwi was only authorized to provide such services to local Batswana women, registering a high number of deaths among HIV-positive women. For now, they are able to be tested and receive treatment. No one knows how long the US will keep funding treatment for the refugees. Neighbouring South Africa, Zambia and Namibia have all extended ARV access to their refugee populations, while other countries in the region provide access on an unofficial basis. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 6/9/2010)