The Government of Botswana has decided to extend free HIV treatment to foreign residents in a major policy shift that closes a significant gap in the country’s response to the epidemic. An estimated 30 000 foreign residents are living with HIV in Botswana, but less than a quarter of them currently have access to treatment. Many foreign residents are simply unable to afford medicines or return home to seek medical help.
Botswana has the third-highest HIV prevalence in the world, with more than one in five of the adult population aged 15–49 years living with the virus. In 2016, the country decided to adopt a treat all strategy by extending free treatment to all citizens living with HIV, a step that has been yielding significant results. Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by a third, with new HIV infections down by 36% over the same period.
“I commend Botswana for extending free treatment to foreign residents living with HIV,” said Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, a.i.
“This measure will save lives and help the entire country progress towards ending the AIDS epidemic―it is another example of Botswana’s leadership and its determination to leave no one behind in the response to HIV.”
The Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness consulted closely with UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the International Organization for Migration, other United Nations agencies and other development partners to develop the new policy.
Based on the government’s decision, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will issue a special government directive to allow health facilities to provide treatment to all people living with HIV residing in the country.