When I sit back and reflect on our HIV journey so far, I worry about the present and more significantly I worry about the future. The future does not seem to be bright. I am worried about the apparent lack of political will on issues of HIV and AIDS. Our leaders so rarely talk about HIV anymore. HIV during the era of Mr. Mogae was uppermost government’s talk and priorities. These days we only hear of HIV from the top when we are told antiretroviral drugs are unsustainable. We have moved from accommodating people to threatening people. This should not really be the case. We should, if at all, be saying to the nation that we are facing financial troubles and engage on the best options to pursue in a bid to avoid stopping free supply of antiretroviral drugs. Engaging is the best approach for it brings about ownership and understanding.
I am also worried about the way we show or fail to show serious leadership. We just returned from the World AIDS Conference in Washington, DC where several leaders converged to talk about matters of HIV and AIDS facing the world. Whereas other countries such as South Africa sent high powered delegations such as Presidents or their deputies to show their commitment to the cause, we sent a delegation led by a civil servant in the National Coordinator of NACA. No offence intended, but you would at least expect someone with a diplomatic passport/immunity to be the leader of delegation at such a forum. The power of networking at the top is crucial. It is at these meetings where you easily come across funders such as Global Fund. Establishing contact with them can help a great deal. It would not, in my view, be amiss to think our leaders do not find HIV as a key priority these days. If it were so, it could be visible to all of us. The international community only knows Ms. Joy Phumaphi and Mr. Festus Mogae who unfortunately hold no power domestically. Are we now complacent in Mogae and Phumaphi’s achievements or we simply do not care?
Locally, the National AIDS Council which used to be chaired by a sitting president but now chaired by the former president Rre Mogae, is rendered useless as no policy decisions are taken seriously. Resolutions are passed for government to consider and no feedback is ever given. It is not surprising that the attendance has dwindled. People know that there are no merits and consequences for non-attendance. We should be worried as a nation. Let us bring back the life and good spirit in the HIV response. Let us inspire the communities to be activists and aware of issues. It is time we restore the image of HIV and show the world that we still see HIV as priority and we are not about to stop now. Stopping to show commitment can only mean that we are ready to digress and lose people’s lives. We should cherish and protect lives first as everything else follows life. If we lose people, in our already small community, we essentially lose everything.