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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 08:20 GMT
Stark Aids message for Botswana
Botswanan president
President Mogae says his people must accept a blunt message
The president of Botswana, one of the most HIV-ridden countries in the world, has warned his country it cannot go on with such a high infection rate.

President Festus Mogae told the BBC his people had to accept a blunt message: abstain from unsafe sex, or die.

He said overseas funding of drugs would not go on indefinitely, and Botswana could not afford on its own to keep a rising number of patients alive.

Mr Mogae was giving an interview timed to coincide with World Aids Day.

Botswana is presented as a test case for the roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs in Africa, says BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut.

No peak in sight

Diamonds and tourism have made it a relatively rich country and money from the United States and Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates' foundation are helping to fund the most ambitious treatment programme on the continent.

Some 35,000 people are now on anti-retroviral drugs and the number is rising, with little sign of the epidemic peaking.

Drugs to treat HIV/Aids

Botswana's citizens, 37% of whom are HIV positive, currently make up 10% of all patients worldwide who receive the anti-Aids drugs.

But the president has warned that the foreign funding for treatment will not last forever.

"It's not sustainable in the long term unless something happens to the infection," Mr Mogae said. "We have to say things like 'abstain or die'."

The president said the availability of funding for drugs had shifted the emphasis to treating as many as possible, while the money lasts.

Prolong lives

"For now, when we have limited resources at our disposal, we are using them to try to prolong the lives of many people," he said.

But education and abstinence must again take the lead role in the future, he argued.

The president added that the HIV infection rate in his country seemed worse than in other African nations partly because of the availability of anti-retrovirals.

In Uganda, he said, people who were infected died within three to five years because of the lack of drugs, whereas in Botswana they stayed alive longer.

This meant the figures for those infected appeared higher by comparison, Mr Mogae said.




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