The Botswana Harvard Aids Institute has this week celebrated two decades of existence.
The institution, a partnership between Boston based – Harvard University and the Ministry of Health, strives to combat HIV/AIDS and other emerging public health challenges through innovative research, education and capacity building that impacts policy and practice.
Before the inception of the institution, the HIV/AIDS epidemic ran rampant within the country and at the time 37% of pregnant women were HIV positive.
However, with the partnership’s intervention, the figure has markedly dropped and their goal of having an HIV-free generation is well on course to being accomplished.
Although the fight against HIV cannot be solely attributed to the partnership, they have certainly contributed to plummeting under-5 mortality rates and mother to infant transmissions.
Speaking at the official 20 year celebration of BHP, CEO Dr Joseph Makhema highlighted the partnership’s journey and the challenges faced in such an endeavor.
He emphasised the state of the art laboratory that replaced the previous antiquated facility that has assisted in a number of clinical trials that have proved successful.
In fact, to a large extent it was this laboratory that enabled initiatives like the Early Infant Treatment (EIT) Study which aims to determine whether very early antiretroviral treatment initiation in HIV-infected infants limits the seeding of viral reservoirs.
Other initiatives include KITSO (Knowledge, Innovation and Training Shall Overcome HIV) which seeks to vigorously equip nurses, physicians, laboratory technicians and general staff with the expertise to adequately combat the viral disease in the best possible manner pertinent to their specific field.
Dr Makhema said one of the biggest challenges they are facing is how BHP will adapt over time to new patterns of the disease.
“As we move towards becoming a public health institute, it will be important to have an epidemiology unit within BHP to study disease trends and interventions required to address the diseases,” he said.