HIV city - where one in four under 50 is infected

IN THE recently refurbished Princess Marina Hospital in central Gaborone, Botswana's sprawling capital, the wards are full of young people dying from Aids.

Every week up to 70 more people infected with the condition arrive at the hospital, situated off the city's northern ring road, seeking whatever help is available.

The staff do what they can. For illnesses associated with Aids, such as tuberculosis, they can do quite a lot to help to control the pain and improve a patient's quality of life.

But for Aids they can do nothing. In Gaborone - as elsewhere around the country - there is simply not the money for the expensive anti-viral drugs used in the West to slow the effects of the disease. Drugs to treat one person for a month cost the same as a senior civil servant's salary.

"It is extremely depressing. Our wards are full of young people aged 20 to 35 dying, and that is something we are not used to," said Dr Howard Moffat, a consultant physician and the hospital's acting superintendent. "I was here when we diagnosed out first Aids case in 1986. Since then the growth in the number of cases we have witnessed has been phenomenal. And we only see a small number of those people who are suffering."

Botswana and neighbouring Zimbabwe share the unenviable honour of being the Aids capitals of the world. In both of these southern African countries 25 per cent of adults aged between 15 and 49 are infected with either HIV or Aids. In Botswana, a country with a population of just 1.5 million, this means that between 200,000 to 220,000 are infected with the virus.

Botswana's problem, as elsewhere, is one of attitudes being slow to change. An aggressive health education campaign in English and Setswana has meant that most people are aware of the dangers of Aids. Yet in a country where 95 per cent of HIV infection is spread through sexual activity, many people are still reluctant to change their behaviour. "One problem is that many young people only see the disease as something that might affect them in 10 or 15 years," said Dr Moffat. "While the infection rates of HIV are high, the number of people who have died has only increased since 1992. Now, the number of people who have died from Aids has reached 15,000 but attitudes are slow to change."

Trying to convince people to use condoms is another problem. In the past where people have used any contraception, it has usually been oral.

In Botswana condoms are as easily available as Coca-Cola. Clare Short, the Secretary of State for Overseas Development, says condoms need to be as widely available as Coca-Cola if Aids is to be tackled in the developing world. But whereas the "Real Thing" costs the equivalent of 20p for 330mls, a packet of contraceptives costs five times as much.

"Condoms are available free of charge from health centres but people have to queue up for them. There is a problem with this because it is hard to persuade people to go and collect them," said another Gaborone- based health worker employed by the United Nations.

"A lot of men simply don't want to go to health centres and get these things. If the Government is going to persuade people to use them it is going to have to try and ensure condoms are available elsewhere.

"One difficulty is that until recently Aids has not been a visible problem. It has been easy for people to think it will not affect them."

That situation is rapidly changing. While experts believe the percentage of people infected is unlikely to rise further, the actual number of people developing full-blown Aids will increase.

And Aids is not just affecting adults. In Princess Marina Hospital, built in 1966 to celebrate the country's independence from Britain, 25 per cent of the infants receiving treatment are babies born infected with HIV.

And the children's wards at the hospital, like those set aside for adults, are full.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape