Tuesday, June 8, 2010

H.H the V.P. L.G.M.Merafhe at the Opening of the 2nd National HIV and AIDS,Sexually Transm. Infections & other related Infectious Diseases Conference

source: Republic of Botswana (21/5/10) TAUTONA TIMES for May 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"


[Salutations]...Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

1. It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to have been invited to officially open this Second National HIV and AIDS, STI and Other Related Infectious Diseases Conference (NHASORC II).

2. As some of you may be aware, the first conference of this nature was held in 2003.

3. This year's conference, held under the theme "Research Partnerships and Capacity Development", offers local research institutions, scholars and experts in the area of HIV and AIDS a platform to disseminate information about studies undertaken in this country.

4. The overall goal of the Second National HIV and AIDS, STI and Other Related Infectious Diseases Conference is to provide a forum for sharing findings of various research projects undertaken in Botswana since 2003, with a view to informing the development of a national research agenda.

5. The research agenda will help Botswana to refocus her resolve in operationalizing the HIV and AIDS research capacity development programme.

6. It is my fervent hope that at the end of the 3 days of this conference, Botswana will be in a better position to draft her National HIV and AIDS research agenda.

7. This agenda will enable policy makers and other key players to make informed decisions for their programmes.

8. I have been informed that the role of the National HIV and AIDS Research Agenda is to ensure that there is coordinated research effort by all research institutions, thereby maximising the use of limited resources.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

9. I would like to assure you that my Government is committed to providing an enabling environment for home-grown research development in the area of HIV and AIDS as well as other related infections.

10. I strongly believe that district-specific research, which is now being proposed as the way forward, will give us tremendous opportunity to understand local issues on their own merit.

Director of Ceremonies,

11. You would know by now, that Botswana has made significant progress in scaling up some key national interventions against HIV and AIDS.

12. These include:

* Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), * Antiretroviral Treatment program.

13. The successful expansion of these programs has remarkably improved the quality of life for many Batswana.

14. Consequently the number of deaths in this country has been reduced by half, and all of these have been informed by research.

15. In an attempt to expand our understanding of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, I am informed that the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) has embarked on the 'Know Your Epidemic - Know Your Response' study.

16. This study provides more detailed information on the epidemiology of new infections and on the alignment of resources to those most in need.

17. It is therefore not in doubt that this will assist us in aligning the national HIV and AIDS prevention response with the best understanding of where the new HIV infections are occurring.

Director of Ceremonies,

18. The data that we derive from conducting surveys such as sentinel surveillance of HIV infections among pregnant women and the AIDS Impact Surveys provide us with information for tracking the epidemic in Botswana.

19. I am informed that to date, most research on the impact of HIV and AIDS in Botswana has largely been quantitative.

20. Even though socio-economic surveys have been carried out, findings suggest that there are still some critical research questions that need to be addressed through qualitative research.

21. Such questions, if addressed properly can influence the success of our HIV and AIDS interventions.

22. I am aware that deciding on what these issues are calls for analytical, rigorous and systematic consultations with stakeholders.

Director of Ceremonies,

23. Recently Botswana received a loan amounting to US $50 million from the World Bank and the European Union.

24. The aim of this support, referred to as The Botswana National HIV and AIDS Prevention Support Project, is to strengthen and support the Government of Botswana's national strategic frameworks and programs for HIV and AIDS.

25. Programmes such as this one can only be worthy if they are informed by research.

26. In this connection, last year NACA undertook the National AIDS Spending Assessment (NASA) through which we are able to report on the flow of resources intended to combat HIV and AIDS.

27. Such exercises help us to reflect on the actual spending against set targets, as a way of accounting for the expenditure.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

28. I would like to commend some of the research partnerships that continue to work hand in hand with my Government in imparting skills to Batswana for local capacity and sustainability of projects.

29. This notwithstanding, I find no reason why after twenty five years at the helm of this epidemic, we cannot lead in HIV and AIDS research with academic institutions such as the University of Botswana and Institute of Health Sciences.

30. I urge all those individuals and institutions involved in research in the area of HIV and AIDS to strive to excel.

Director of Ceremonies,

31. I wish to challenge NACA and its partners to ensure that this conference is meaningfully used to achieve its purpose of completing the planned National Research Agenda.

32. I am told that amongst us, there are experts in the subject from the SADC region such as the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) which is a regional hub in HIV and AIDS research.

33. Let us ensure that as a country we derive maximum benefits from interacting with such experts.

34. As a way of concluding, I want to believe that the media fraternity is also amongst us this evening.

35. The role of the media as a strategic partner in informing and influencing public and professional knowledge on matters such as this one cannot be over emphasized.

36. One way of closing the gap between speculation and facts is for the media people to meet and interact with all these experts, learn from them, initiate debates on topical issues, generate stories and build alliances to inform their future reporting on HIV and AIDS.

Director of Ceremonies, Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,

37. I strongly believe that the expertise available in this conference will indeed steer our nation in the right direction.

38. Therefore, I trust that this conference will come up with pragmatic recommendations which can be implemented for the betterment of this nation.

39. With those remarks, it is now my singular honour to declare the Second National HIV and AIDS, STI and Other Related Infectious Diseases (NHASORC II) Conference officially opened.

40. I thank you for the courtesy of your attention. PULA!

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