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Routine Testing Helps Botswana Track the Spread of AIDS


The World Health Organization estimates that less than 10 percent of Africans with HIV/AIDS know they are infected. This -- despite decades of public education campaigns. WHO officials say such is the case in Botswana, which is estimated to have a high rate of infection. In order save lives, AIDS treatment is free. But before people can be treated, they must be tested, and many are afraid to go for voluntary testing. The WHO says as a result, the number of people receiving treatment is less than expected. Three years ago this month the government came up with a new policy of routine testing in clinics.

Segolame Ramotlhwa is operations manager for the national HIV/AIDS treatment program known as MASA, or New Dawn. He told VOA’s Ruby Ofori that the new program does not violate patients’ rights: “When patients come to our health facility all of them are offered and then if they agree to the test then they are tested. So it’s not like anybody is forced. ”

Mr. Ramotlhwa said as a result of routine testing more people are receiving anti-retroviral drug therapy: “An important step towards fighting the epidemic is for people to know their HIV status. When they know their HIV status they’re somewhat empowered because now they know what they can do, and there’s something that the state can do for them.”

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