Encourage tomorrow’s leaders to test

09th May 2018
Gorata Motlhabane Source:The Midweek Sun

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By Gorata Motlhabane -


Imagine if we were to live in a nation without young people. Though they are future leaders, what are we doing to ensure that the youth live long and healthy lives?

This week, I would like to discuss how we as a nation can ensure a healthy future for our young people by supporting them to test for HIV and begin treatment when they test HIV-positive. Botswana is doing a great job in providing free HIV testing and treatment in every district, enabling us to achieve the Global UNAIDS 90-90-90 Goals by 2020. These goals are that 90 percent of people living with HIV should be diagnosed; 90 percent of diagnosed people should be on anti-retroviral treatment, and 90 percent people in treatment should maintain viral suppression.

In June 2016, former President Ian Khama introduced the Treat All initiative, which allows any citizen who tests HIV positive to immediately enrol on treatment. This initiative is also being implemented in many other countries where it is called Test and Treat, or Universal Treatment. Treat All gives us the best out of life.

Those who are diagnosed with HIV these days can benefit immediately, unlike before when someone had to wait for their CD4 count to decline below 350 before accessing treatment (this decline showed that their immune system was being damaged and often would lead to serious illness). With Treat All, one is able to stay healthy and fit, and can continue doing all of their daily activities.

With Treat All, being HIV positive does not mean you will be ill, or lose weight, or have other visible symptoms. Treat All also preserves good health by reducing chances of getting opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis. When someone is newly diagnosed with HIV, they often struggle with the decision to disclose their status to others.

I don’t believe that everyone who has HIV must “go public” and tell the world about their status, but it is important that everyone accepts themselves as a first step. We are living in an era where many people know their HIV status, but some have avoided testing and do not know their status. In order to help these people who need to find the courage to test and accept themselves, I have joined this new initiative called the Treat All Champions.

As a Treat All Champion, I am here as the backbone of the youth who are either infected or affected by HIV. My mission is to reach those who haven’t tested before, or who have stopped testing regularly. I will also be supporting those who need to begin treatment and achieve viral suppression.

It is painful to see some who can’t enjoy the benefits of treatment just because they haven’t accepted themselves and are stigmatizing themselves. Ignorance is killing our ability to understand many things. We still have people in the health sector, health care workers and patients, who still lack important information on HIV-related issues.

I believe as a nation, we can do better to improve health literacy, and HIV treatment literacy, but it is also important that everyone strives to educate themselves about health issues. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s upon us, the youth, to take full charge of our future – we are tomorrow’s leaders. The future of this country is determined by us, so let’s wise up and do the right thing. Let’s not only focus on the country’s future, but our own, too.  Let’s take full responsibility for it. Together we can make it.




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