- Standard 7 pupil gang raped and left with damaged womb

New HIV infections are on the rise in Botswana, particularly among teenage girls, categorised as adolescents, findings from a recent UNAIDS study have shown.

Current data indicates that HIV prevalence in young people aged 15 to 24 years is 16.9 per cent and 6.6 per cent among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years old in Botswana. In addition, one in four new HIV infections in Botswana occur among young women and adolescent girls aged 15 to 24 years old.

UNAIDS Country Manager Alankar Malviya, told media in Gaborone that adolescent girls and young women are particularly at risk of HIV infection, as well as unintended pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence. He said that Botswana is faring poorly in its efforts to curb new HIV infections by 2030.

"The most recent spike in the number of Batswana now is worrying particularly as great investments have been made in HIV prevention programmes and public education and awareness initiatives especially among youth."

It's like taking one step forward and two steps backwards considering that just a few months ago, Botswana was said to be doing well in reduction of HIV but now new infections are suddenly increasing again.

In December 2021, Botswana became the first high HIV burden country to be certified by the WHO Global Validation Advisory Committee (GVAC) as having achieved a critical milestone along the path to eliminating vertical HIV transmission.

Maliviya noted that, "As striking as what Botswana has achieved, it is important to use the certification process as an avenue to empower women living with HIV and reinforce their fundamental rights."

Prevalence of HIV among adults in Botswana was 20.8 per cent, which corresponds to approximately 329 000 adults living with HIV. HIV prevalence was at 26.2 percent among females and 15.2 percent among males.

But it appears that women and girls are more at risk of HIV infections and women who take part in transactional sexual affairs where they date men in exchange for money and gifts under the pretext of "love" as well as sex workers are more likely to be infected by HIV because they cannot negotiate condom use or they are sexually violated.

UNAIDS data show that over 95 percent of pregnant women in Botswana were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2021, up from 77 per cent in 2010. Furthermore, many girls are being traded for sex in syndicates and some are sexually abused in homes and schools.

The disheartening plight of young girls in Botswana was reiterated recently in Serowe at a GBV workshop for the farming community, where Serowe Administration Authority Maikutlo Ramselwane said that in most cases, "women and girls are abused and violated by the same people who are supposed to protect them."

Ramselwane cited a recent incident that set tongues wagging where a Standard 7 pupil of Palapye was sexually abused by a group of men and left with emotional trauma and a permanently damaged womb and serious back problems.

He reiterated that there is need to work together to challenge GBV and the entitlement attitude that some men have towards the bodies of women and girls in Botswana and encouraged men, who are often perpetrators, to respect and protect women and girls.