Gaborone, Botswana | 30 August 2019
Today marks the end of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation two-day mission to Botswana. We came here to engage with the national leadership on status of the response in Botswana and to advocate for increased commitment to ending AIDS and ensuring that no one is left behind, by addressing political, social and legal barriers to fast-track ending AIDS. We are confident that Botswana can and will end AIDS as a public health threat.
While in Botswana, we also commemorated 10 years of the Champions’ programme. The very first meeting that established the Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation took place here in Gaborone, in 2008. We have come full circle. In this commemoration, in collaboration with our partners UNAIDS, represented by Ms. Gunilla Carlsson, Executive Director ai, PEPFAR, represented by Amb. Craig Cloud and SADC Secretariat, represented by Amb Joseph Nourrice and the Government and people of Botswana, we took stock of our work, the successes we have had and where we could have done better. We concluded that we, the Champions, with support of our partners, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and SADC Secretariat, will continue the advocacy for ending AIDS and leaving no one behind in Africa.
We had successful engagement with His Excellency, the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi and Ministers responsible for Health and HIV on the status of the response and its implementation. We commend the leadership of His Excellency Masisi for the progress Botswana has made towards ending AIDS.
Whilst we commend Botswana for the significant progress made in her response to the HIV epidemic in recent years, the country is still experiencing new HIV infections, particularly among the key affected populations and young people. The war on HIV and AIDS is not over. However, we are pleased to inform you that His Excellency President Masisi, has reaffirmed his commitment to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.
We confirm that His Excellency, the President of Botswana, is committed to re-energising and re-prioritizing the HIV and AIDS agenda, while leaving no one behind. President Masisi made the pronouncement that all populations of Botswana will be provided with comprehensive HIV services, including ART, and no one will be excluded. We commend his courageous leadership which demonstrates that complacency is being reversed. This pronouncement is evidence that Botswana is in its last sprint towards ending AIDS by 2030.
We commend the commitment of the First Lady of Botswana, Mrs. Neo Masisi, as Special Ambassador for the Empowerment and Engagement of Young People in Botswana. UNAIDS could not have found a better giant in Botswana to champion issues of young people, particularly young women and girls. We are encouraged by the tremendous work that the First Lady of Botswana in advocating for young people’s needs, the promotion and protection of their rights, and their leadership roles as agents of change.
AIDS remains a key challenge for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and for Botswana. The shrinking external resources coupled with the stagnant or slight increases in domestic investment in health and HIV has resulted in a continually widening resource gap between what is required and what is available. Yesterday we had a high- level dialogue with different leadership sectors and stakeholders to debate the various options and models to sustain political leadership on HIV. We strongly encourage Botswana to build a fair share of domestic resources to prepare for sustainability of the HIV response. We urge the national response authorities to strategically engage the private sector in supporting the government’s efforts in in closing the resource gap. In light of the competing priorities, political leadership must ensure that complacency at all levels is reversed and that leadership leaves no one behind.
The threat of complacency on HIV prevention interventions should be reversed. We, therefore, urge the national HIV response stakeholders to prioritize prevention interventions with a focus on vulnerabilities that expose adolescents and young people, especially girls and young women to HIV. We call upon all stakeholders to have targeted prevention messages, including education and awareness creation on the dangers of early sexual debut, high rates of multiple sex partners, low levels of consistent condom use, intergenerational and transactional sex, and gender based violence. We all know that prevention is better and cheaper than cure, and hence our focus should be on prevention.
This morning, we had a dialogue with the young people and civil society in an effort to build young people’s leadership and accountability in the response. We urge young people to take ownership and accountability of the rising new infections amongst their age mates and colleagues. We encourage young people to work together, form coalitions, and have freedom with responsibilities and meaningfully participation in national and community structures to avert new HIV infections. We advocate for prioritization and engagement of young people as partners and as leaders in the national response.
In conclusion, we call upon the national authorities in Botswana to implement initiatives that leave no one behind and that political, social and legal barriers should be addressed if we are to fast-track ending AIDS. We are grateful to the His Excellency, the President of Botswana, his national response Ministers, government officials, development partners and civil society for the warm welcome we received in Botswana. We also wish to extend our gratitude to the enthusiasm and level of participation shown by the national leadership sectors, key stakeholders and partners, young people and civil society in the two dialogues. The war against HIV is not over. Let us rise and together finish the last sprint to end AIDS.
I thank you.
His Excellency the former President of Botswana, Festus G. Mogae, Chairperson of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa