Botswana hits ‘historic’ UN goal against HIV: report

HIV –1/2 .HIV blood sample testing tabs at the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Clinic at the Bwindi Community Hospital. The hospital is in Buhoma village on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Western Uganda. It serves around 60 000 people from the surrounding area. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
HIV –1/2. HIV blood sample testing tabs. (Photo via Getty Images)

Botswana has become the second nation in the world, after Eswatini, to reach a landmark UN goal towards eradicating AIDS, researchers said Wednesday, in what health experts hailed as “stellar results”.

The country has met the so-called “95-95-95” target on HIV diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression several years early, according to a study published ahead of a global conference on the disease.

About one in five people in Botswana live with the virus — one of the highest rates in the world — according to the UN AIDS agency.

The agency wanted 95 percent of HIV-positive people to know their status, 95 percent of those diagnosed on medication and 95 percent of those under treatment to show signs that the virus is being suppressed in their blood by 2025.

But the study led by Botswana’s health ministry found the country had already met or surpassed all three thresholds, with a 95-98-98 score. The global average in 2020 was 84-87-90, UNAIDS says.

“Botswana is making historic new progress against HIV,” Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, told a virtual press briefing presenting the results.

The country is “well positioned to end its HIV epidemic by 2030. To put it simply, these are really stellar results.”

Madisa Mine, the study’s lead author and a Botswana government virologist, said the results were encouraging.

“We have translated a hopeless situation into a situation where now there is hope,” he said.

Now both the government and people on medication could look forward to Botswana one day becoming an AIDS-free country, Mine added.

That was a far cry from when he started working on the disease two decades ago, and it seemed the nation was “facing extinction” due to the high number of infections.