The Republic of Botswana has achieved key milestones in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The country was previously classified as a “high burden” country, which is defined as more than two percent of women living with HIV. This achievement is thanks to a collaboration of The Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) at Texas Children’s Hospital with the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Center of Excellence. This center was the first in Africa to provide free accessible pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment and care.
“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,” stated Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa. “This groundbreaking milestone is a big step forward in ending AIDS on the continent and shows how visionary political leadership aligned with public health priorities can save lives. I look forward to other African countries also reaching this goal.”
The WHO awarded the country with a “silver tier” certification. This is given to countries where; HIV case rates are in less than 500 out of 10,000 live births, mother-to-child HIV transmission rates fall below five percent, and antiretroviral treatments are administered to more than 90 percent of pregnant women. Many other countries have also achieved this level of HIV eradication including Cuba (2015), Thailand (2017), Bermuda (2018), and Sri Lanka (2019), to name a few.
Global health organizations all over the world have been successfully eliminating the virus for a number of years. It seems like the fight against HIV will continue to prevail, and more lives will be saved. Botswana was the first high burden country to fall to a silver tier level, inspiring other countries with a successful model to take inspiration from.
Dr. Mogomotsi Matshaba, executive director of the Botswana-Baylor Trust added: “This momentous achievement marks not the end but a giant step forward, ever inching closer to complete elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which has up to now seemed impossible for high-burden countries. We now know it is possible.”