The WHO recently-celebrated Botswana for their “groundbreaking achievement” of stopping the transmission of HIV between moms and their newborns.
The national program has reduced such occurrences from 40% to below 1% since it was launched 23 years ago.
Botswana still struggles with high HIV infection rates, but in the country’s central health district, just four babies have been born with HIV all year, and in 7 other health districts, there’s been no such transmissions.
“This is a huge accomplishment for a country that has one of the most severe HIV epidemics in the world—Botswana demonstrates that an AIDS-free generation is possible,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“This groundbreaking milestone is a big step forward in ending AIDS on the continent.”
Globally, 15 countries have been certified for eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. None of them had an epidemic as large as Botswana. In 1999 the HIV prevalence rate was as high as 30%.
“The progress on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in this region is truly a public health success, with more than 1.7 million new infections in children averted since 2010,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “We applaud Botswana for this remarkable achievement.”
Pictured above, Dora is a poultry farmer in the village of Serowe who is HIV-positive. When she was pregnant she worried she would transmit the virus to her baby. She waited anxiously for the HIV test result and she could not be happier when it came out negative. That is the story of a fortunately large number of mothers in the country.
The program is really rather simple. It encourages pregnant women to test for HIV, and will put positive mothers immediately on antiretroviral therapy for the duration of the pregnancy. The newborn is also given antiretroviral therapy for 6 months after birth.
Negative women continue to be tested throughout the duration of their pregnancy.
Botswana is aiming to have an HIV-AIDS-free generation by 2030.