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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 02:35 GMT
Botswana Aids stigma 'persists'
President Mogae with Roger Hearing
President Mogoe was interviewed for the BBC Aids season
The president of Botswana has acknowledged that the stigma attached to HIV/Aids is hampering efforts to fight the disease.

President Festus Mogae made the remarks in a BBC interview.

He said because of the stigma, "people are not willing to talk about sexual matters and the HIV/Aids pandemic".

But the president said this was changing because he, his ministers and members of parliament now mentioned it when addressing rallies.

Reluctance to take tests

President Mogae said because of the social stigma, many people were reluctant to take tests on their HIV status.

The president, who has tested negative, said he took the test as an effort to try to encourage other people.

He said it was important for people to know their HIV status because "if you are negative then you try to remain negative and if you are positive you can get assisted".

He stressed that testing positive no longer meant a death sentence especially with antiretroviral therapy now available.

if you are negative then you try to remain negative and if you are positive you can get assisted
Festus Mogae, Botswana President

President Mogae said because of the stigmatisation, churches used to say that Aids was a punishment from God for sinners.

He said they have fortunately managed to convince the churches that it was a wrong interpretation.

He said as part of efforts to change attitudes he has encouraged his ministers as well as members of parliament to take a test. Three MP's have already done that.

And as part of the same drive, he said that from 1 January next year, anyone who goes to a government medical facility would automatically be tested for HIV/Aids, unless they refused to do so.

Prevention campaign

Apart from the social stigma of the disease, president Mogae also spoke of the need to take into account the message being put forward in fight against the disease.

He said the simple message "abstain, be faithful and condoms" was an important prevention tool.

He said he has even asked the churches to help spread this message.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Michael Buerk
"Only one in ten Botswanans has taken an HIV test"



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