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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
01GABORONE3514
2001-11-01 05:42:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Gaborone
Cable title:  

A GRASS-ROOTS LOOK AT HIV/AIDS IN BOTSWANA

Tags:  KHIV EAID SOCI MASS PHUM BBG BC 
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R 010542Z NOV 01
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7297
INFO CDC ATLANTA GA
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ4/ECJ4-ID//
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 003514 

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KHIV EAID SOCI MASS PHUM BBG BC
SUBJECT: A GRASS-ROOTS LOOK AT HIV/AIDS IN BOTSWANA

REF: GABORONE 3255

INTRODUCTION
------------



1. DURING OUR RECENT TRAVELS UPCOUNTRY, THE AMBASSADOR
AND EMBASSY STAFF LOOKED AT COMMUNITY-BASED ACTIVITIES IN
THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND INTERAGENCY USG SUPPORT
FOR THOSE EFFORTS. IT WAS A SOBERING EXPERIENCE THAT
EMPHASIZED THE DEBILITATING SOCIAL EFFECTS OF THE
DISEASE.

SELEBI-PHIKWE: "NUMBER ONE IN THE COUNTRY, NUMBER ONE IN
THE WORLD"; THE STIGMA OF HIV IS "GENOCIDE"


--------------------------





2. ON OCTOBER 19, WE ATTENDED THE OFFICIAL OPENING IN
SELEBI-PHIKWE OF ANOTHER TEBELOPELE VOLUNTARY COUNSELING
AND TESTING CENTER. AS PART OF OUR INTERAGENCY EFFORT,
THE IBB/VOA STATION MANAGER INITIATED NEGOTIATIONS WITH
LOCAL AUTHORITIES FOR THE PLOT OF LAND, THE OFFICE OF
DEFENSE COOPERATION BUILT THE STRUCTURE, AND THE CENTERS
FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION PROVIDED EQUIPMENT AND
STAFF. THE OFFICIAL OPENING, WHICH ATTRACTED AROUND 200
PEOPLE, WAS AN UPBEAT EVENT WITH A SERIOUS THEME. IT
INCLUDED A TENT AND LARGE "KNOW YOUR STATUS" SIGNS TO
ATTRACT ATTENTION ON THE TOWN'S MAIN STREET; A SKIT IN
SETSWANA ON HIV/AIDS; AND SPEECHES BY LOCAL OFFICIALS,
THE AMBASSADOR AND THE MINISTER OF HEALTH.



3. IN AN IMPASSIONED SPEECH ALTERNATING BETWEEN ENGLISH
AND SETSWANA, MINISTER OF HEALTH JOY PHUMAPHI USED A
PHRASE WE HAD NOT PREVIOUSLY HEARD FROM GOB LEADERS. SHE
SAID THE STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH HIV/AIDS IS THE WORST
CRIME THAT BATSWANA HAVE EVER COMMITTED AGAINST
THEMSELVES AND SHE TERMED IT "GENOCIDE." SHE ALSO
STRESSED THE POINT THAT A LEGAL DOCUMENT OF MARRIAGE DOES
NOT PROVIDE ANY PROTECTION AGAINST HIV AND URGED PEOPLE
TO BE TESTED PRIOR TO MARRIAGE. (SHE HAS TOLD US IN THE
PAST THAT IN BOTSWANA, WHEN ONE PERSON IS INFECTED, THE
SPOUSE IS GENERALLY ALSO INFECTED.)



4. IN HIS CLOSING REMARKS, THE TOWN CLERK DERISIVELY
PROCLAIMED SELEBI-PHIKWE AS "NUMBER ONE IN THE COUNTRY,
NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD" IN HIV INFECTION. HE NOTED THAT
BOTSWANA LEADS THE WORLD IN HIV INFECTION RATES AND
WITHIN THE COUNTRY SELEBI-PHIKWE HAD TAKEN THE TOP SPOT
FROM FRANCISTOWN. HE CITED THE MOST RECENT ESTIMATES
FROM THE DECEMBER 2000 HIV SURVEY FOR BOTSWANA (FUNDED IN
PART BY CDC) ESTIMATING THAT 45.7 PERCENT OF ADULTS AGED
15-49 IN THE TOWN ARE HIV POSITIVE. (SEE REFTEL FOR A
FULLER SUMMARY OF THAT SURVEY.) THE CLERK ALSO DESCRIBED
THE HUMAN IMPACT OF THE TOLL: THE COUNCIL CARES FOR 445
ORPHANED CHILDREN WHO ARE SCATTERED IN FOSTER HOMES
AROUND TOWN (POPULATION 50,000).

FRANCISTOWN: HELPING CHILD-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS WHERE
PARENTS HAVE DIED OF AIDS; OTHER VULNERABLE CHILDREN


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. IN FRANCISTOWN THAT EVENING, MINISTER PHUMAPHI (WHOSE
PARLIAMENTARY DISTRICT IS FRANCISTOWN EAST AND WHOSE
HUSBAND IS A PROMINENT ATTORNEY) HOSTED THE LAUNCHING OF
A TRUST AIMED AT ASSISTING (THROUGH PROVISION OF SHELTER,
TRAINING, ETC.) THE LIVES OF DISADVANTAGED MEMBERS OF THE
COMMUNITY (INCLUDING THE NEEDY, HOMELESS AND DESTITUTE
ORPHANS). THE BASIC HOUSE TO BE PROVIDED TO THOSE IN
NEED WILL CONSIST OF ONE BEDROOM, ONE KITCHENETTE AND ONE
BATHROOM BUILT ON A SLAB FOR A TWO-ROOM HOUSE. MANY OF
THE COMMUNITY LEADERS OF FRANCISTOWN (POPULATION 84,000)
WERE IN ATTENDANCE AND THE MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
GAVE THE KEYNOTE SPEECH.



6. PHUMAPHI TOLD THE AMBASSADOR THAT MUCH OF THE WORK OF
THE TRUST WILL BE AIMED AT CHILD-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS, WHERE
CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 14 ARE CARING FOR THEIR YOUNGER
SIBLINGS AFTER THE DEATH OR INCAPACITATION OF THEIR
PARENTS DUE TO AIDS. OTHER HOUSEHOLDS TO BE ASSISTED
INCLUDE THOSE IN WHICH BOTH PARENTS HAVE DIED AND THE
AGING GRANDPARENTS ARE HAVING DIFFICULTIES COPING WITH
CHILD-CARING RESPONSIBILITIES. ACCORDING TO PHUMAPHI,
THE PERFORMANCE OF CHILDREN AT SCHOOL TENDS TO DECLINE IN
THE LAST YEARS PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF A PARENT AS THE
CHILD SUFFERS FROM STRESS AND ADDITIONAL DUTIES AT HOME.
THE AMBASSADOR EXPRESSED SUPPORT FOR HER EFFORTS AND
PROVIDED AN APPLICATION FORM FOR SELF-HELP PROGRAM
FUNDING.



7. ON OCTOBER 20, THE SHINING STARS OF FRANCISTOWN'S
MONARCH COMMUNITY OFFICIALLY OPENED THEIR NEW FACILITIES
PAID FOR BY ODC AND THE SELF-HELP PROGRAM. MINISTER
PHUMAPHI AND THE AMBASSADOR WERE KEYNOTE SPEAKERS.
SHINING STARS IS A COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAM, ORGANIZED
UNDER TRUSTEESHIP OF THE TSHIRELETSO AIDS AWARENESS
GROUP, BENEFITING 275 VULNERABLE CHILDREN AGED 2 - 18.
THESE INCLUDE THOSE WHO ARE DESTITUTE, HAVE ILL PARENTS,
OR ARE ILL THEMSELVES. THE ORGANIZATION DOES NOT LIMIT
ITSELF TO "AIDS ORPHANS," AS AIDS CARRIES A STIGMA THAT
IS AUTOMATICALLY TRANSFERRED FROM PARENT TO CHILD.
CHILDREN ENGAGE IN LIFE SKILLS, ACADEMIC AND SPORTS
ACTIVITIES AND ARE EDUCATED ABOUT HIV ("SO THEY CAN STAY
BEHIND WHEN EVERYBODY ELSE HAS GONE," ACCORDING TO THE
SHINING STARS DIRECTOR). ALL WORK IS PERFORMED BY
VOLUNTEERS, AS THERE ARE NO PAID STAFF. ONE OF THE TASKS
FOR ADULT SPONSORS IS TO CARE FOR PARENTS SICK WITH AIDS
SO THAT THEIR CHILDREN CAN ATTEND SCHOOL.



8. THE ODC SUPPORT, PROVIDED THROUGH DOD'S HUMANITARIAN
ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, INCLUDES TWO BUILDINGS, A
CLASSROOM/LIBRARY AND A KITCHEN/COMMON ROOM/REST ROOM
FACILITY. THE AMBASSADOR'S SELF-HELP FUND HAS PROVIDED
SHINING STARS WITH EDUCATIONAL EQUIPMENT, FURNITURE AND A
COMMERCIAL OVEN FOR PRODUCING BREAD FOR SALE TO THE
COMMUNITY. PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF BREAD WILL BE USED
TO COVER ORPHAN-CARE OPERATING EXPENSES. IT IS HOPED
THAT THIS WILL REDUCE SHINING STARS' DEPENDENCE ON LOCAL
DONORS AS WELL AS GIVE ORPHAN BENEFICIARIES A SENSE OF
BEING ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY.



9. THE DIRECTOR HAS WORKED VERY HARD AND IS DOING A
COMMENDABLE JOB, BUT SHE STILL DOES NOT RECEIVE ENOUGH
COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR EVERYDAY EXPENSES: THE ELECTRIC
COMPANY HAD THREATENED TO CUT OFF POWER ON THE DAY
PRECEDING THE EVENT. THIS IS THE SAME ORGANIZATION WHERE
THE CHILDREN, DURING OUR VISIT LAST YEAR, SERENADED US
WITH A SONG CARRYING THE HAUNTING REFRAIN, "MY MOTHER
DIED BEFORE I MET HER."

COMMENT


--------------------------





10. THE TWO-DAY TRIP PROVIDED US WITH ANOTHER GLIMPSE AT
THE PERVASIVE IMPACT HIV/AIDS IS HAVING ON BOTSWANA. NOT
ONLY ARE MANY ADULTS ALREADY INFECTED, INCLUDING NEARLY
ONE OUT OF TWO PEOPLE IN THEIR 20S, BUT LARGE NUMBERS OF
CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING EITHER BECAUSE THEY WERE BORN HIV
POSITIVE OR BECAUSE THEIR RELATIVES ARE DYING OF AIDS.
AMONG THE MANY USG PROGRAMS IN BOTSWANA RELATED TO
HIV/AIDS, WE WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT PROGRAMS AIMED AT
ASSISTING SUCH NEEDY CASES.


LANGE