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Saturday, 21 March 2009

Gaborone hosts military HIV/AIDS conference

GABORONE - The Botswana Defence Force (BDF), American Embassy and US Department of Defense (DOD) will host a five-day military HIV/AIDS prevention conference from Monday. 

The conference, which is billed for Gaborone Sun, is expected to, among others, draw more than 150 military HIV/AIDS prevention specialists from 26 African countries.

Participants will share will share best practices in HIV prevention and provide input regarding future directions and HIV prevention needs.

Speaking at a recent press briefing in Mogoditshane, the BDF deputy commander, Major General Gobuamang Thokwane said the conference will be a testament to the global partnerships to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic as militaries are equally affected by the scourge.

The conference will be held under the theme “Militaries Leading Prevention Efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.” Gen. Thokwane said the conference’s objectives are to identify and share best practices in military population for HIV prevention including structural, behavioural and biomedical approaches to preventions.

He added that the conference will seek to enforce understanding the barriers to prevention and identify solutions to implementation of international HIV prevention programmes.

The deputy commander also enlightened that the conference is a result of consultation between the BDF and the USA Embassy from the past year recognising that new strategies, more especially biomedical interventions can make a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Therefore, the consultation enforced positioning the militaries to accept the value of such interventions, and to bring them on board as the continent gears up the male circumcision strategy.

“The conference will focus on preventative structural components in the form of regional response to HIV and military HIV/AIDS policy. On behavioural interventions, the conference will look at prevention with positives and prevention dissemination strategies while on biomedical interventions we will look at the efficacy of male circumcision for HIV prevention, research and practices,” Gen. Thokwane said.

US’ Lt. Colonel William Wyatt said their partnership with the BDF stem from the 1980s and has proved to be beneficial to both partners. “We are delighted about the corporation between the BDF and us the USA Military, this partnership goes back to the early 1980s. Our assistance to them in HIV/AIDS programmes started in 2000 with the first funding coming from the Naval Health Research Center and subsequently through PEPFAR from 2003 up to the present day”, Wyatt said.

Col Wyatt said Batswana should pride themselves in the fact that the BDF is treating HIV/AIDS like a war. He added that through this partnership, they will continue to find and use best practices to combat the pandemic. Wyatt added that the conference will delve more on the exciting subject of male circumcision in preventing the spread of HIV, as a result experts will advocate for the integration of male circumcision into prevention programmes.BOPA  

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