$1 = 1 day of life
Botswana, with a population of around 2 million and the third highest HIV prevalence in the world, was also one of the first countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide free HIV care and medication to its citizens. Over the years, it has built a robust national HIV program and is regarded as one of the greatest success stories in the fight against HIV. However, non-citizens are excluded from the national program and as a result have no access to the free HIV care and treatment provided to citizens.
In addition to being the hardest hit by the epidemic, Sub-Saharan Africa hosts over a third of the world’s refugee population and Botswana, with its relative wealth and political stability, has provided a safe haven for many who have fled from conflict or poverty. Though official records document only 3500 refugees and asylum seekers in Botswana, it is estimated that there may be hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes living within its borders.
Dr. Diana Dickinson has been a practicing physician in Gaborone, Botswana since 1987 supporting people living with HIV. In connection with this work, she helped establish the Maipelo Trust in 2006 to focus on the staggering number of non-nationals living in Botswana. In 2010, the Maipelo Trust branched out further to support non-national children living with HIV with the help of a group of pediatricians led by Drs. Dwight Yin, Jonathan Silverman, Elizabeth Wolf, Briana Kirk, and Tafireyi Marukutira. They also worked to expand access to medication to prevent HIV+ pregnant women from transmitting the virus to their babies (prevention of mother to child transmission, or PMTCT).
Today, Maipelo Trust continues to provide care for HIV+ patients in need. Once enrolled in the program, these patients receive lifesaving HIV medication (ARV) according to their ability to pay. Without treatment, those who are working often become so sick they are unable to work and are therefore unable to afford treatment. In addition, many of them face discrimination for being HIV+ and for being non-citizens.
As we work towards continuing to make sure that all HIV patients have access to equitable healthcare, organizations like Maipelo will be essential in providing on the ground care for patients in need.