Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remarks by His Honour the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe, MP, at the Launch of the Month of Prayer at Tsabong Kgotla

source: Republic of Botswana (21/9/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 24 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]...Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I thank you for the invitation to come and be with you today in this beautiful village of Tsabong. It is indeed a privilege for me to share this day with you as we launch the Month of Prayer.

2. During this month the Christian community and the people of Botswana at large join together in collective remembrance of the impact of HIV and AIDS and seek solace in the grace of God. The Month of Prayer is a time to remember all those who passed away because of the disease, those living with the HIV virus and those affected by HIV and AIDS in one way or the other. It is a time to unite in prayer to our God to give us guidance and strength in order to meet both the material and spiritual needs of individuals, families, relatives, colleagues and our nation.

3. Commemoration of this month provides an excellent opportunity for us to pause and consider how as Batswana we first encountered HIV and AIDS, the successes that have been recorded in the fight against the epidemic and the impediments that remain on our path to achieve an HIV free generation by the year 2016. For those of us who were present when the first case of HIV was reported in our country in the early 1980s, we can recall that none of us had any idea how fast the epidemic would spread.

4. However, I am glad that by 1986 we realised as a nation that HIV and AIDS was a mammoth challenge that could in fact wipe out our population from the face of the earth. Immediately we committed ourselves through, our Vision, to ensure that Botswana achieves an AIDS free generation by the year 2016. Subsequently, we declared a national war against the epidemic.

5. It is heartening to note that not only Government made this commitment to the fight against HIV but our development partners, the private sector, Non Governmental and Faith Based Organisations, local communities and individuals all joined forces with a determination to win this war. Structures such as the National AIDS Council, National AIDS Coordinating Agency and District Multi-Sectoral AIDS Committees were established together with an enabling policy framework and financial commitment. Focus has since been on prevention of HIV, treatment and care of people living with HIV and support of those affected by AIDS.

6. Some of the programmes that constitute our national response to the HIV and AIDS include:

a. Free Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for HIV;
b. Introduction of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), from as early as 1998;
c. Introduction of free comprehensive National ARV programme, the first of its kind in Africa, in 2002 and;
d. Offering of routine HIV testing in health institutions.

7. I want to state for the record that the through these programmes there are indications that we are winning the battle against the deadly HIV and AIDS albeit not as fast as we would have desired. In particular, the PMTCT programme has recorded tremendous successes to the extent that in recent years almost all children born to mothers living with HIV are free of the virus.

8. There are also indications that HIV prevalence among our young people up to the age of 19 years has significantly decreased and is stabilizing.

9. I am aware that the results of the third Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS III) of 2008 showed a slight increase in HIV prevalence from 17.1% in 2004 to 17.6% in 2008 which could be construed to mean that we are losing the battle against HIV and AIDS. Let me explain, Ladies and Gentlemen, that HIV prevalence includes both old and new infections therefore the fact that people have access to the treatment of HIV and AIDS means that an increase in the numbers of people living with HIV should be expected as their lives are saved through treatment.

10. Let us take heart and continue to fight against this epidemic because though the battle is raging and the night long yet victory is sure.

11. Director of Ceremonies, despite the successes we still have many challenges ahead. One of the major challenges among Batswana is behavioural change and cultural practices that perpetuate the spread of HIV and AIDS.

12. Bagaetsho, the Month of Prayer is one such opportunity that can help us to overcome the many hurdles that remain in our fight against HIV and AIDS. I believe that when pastors and churches proposed to commemorate a month of prayer alongside the Vision Awareness Month, they not only recognised that HIV and AIDS do not only affect the health and livelihood of individuals and communities but also their spiritual well being.

13. This year's theme which says "Church empower leaders to stop HIV and AIDS - Keep the promise" is a call to every individual, families and communities to be responsible and accountable for stopping HIV and AIDS. Specifically, society expects a lot from people that profess the Christian faith in providing care and support to both the infected and
affected as well as upholding moral standards. Therefore with a strong and responsible community of leaders we can
take our nation to its desired status.

14. I want to urge all of us gathered here and beyond that we are all leaders, people that can positively influence those they interact with at home, work, church or in any social settings to stay committed to achieving our goal of an HIV free generation.

15. Finally, Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to commend all our partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS for your increasing role in sharing the burden with the Government in caring for people living with HIV and the orphans. Motswana a re setshwarwa ke ntsa pedi ga se thata, kgetse ya tsie e kgonwa ke go tshwaraganelwa.

16. Bagaetsho, let us continue to uphold the spirit of team work in addressing all national challenges not only HIV and AIDS. With this remarks I wish you all a productive and most rewarding
month of prayer and may God bless you all. I thank you.

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