Let’s be bold for women and girls, and let’s do it together
March 5, 2015By Joy Phumaphi
When member states of the United Nations agreed on the historic Millennium Development Goals 15 years ago, we aimed to end poverty, hunger and disease. To that end, we set milestones for maternal, newborn and child mortality reduction that were unprecedented in human history.
At the time, I was minister of health in Botswana, and HIV and AIDS were ravaging our families and communities with relentless precision.
“This is a crisis of the first magnitude,” then-President Festus Mogae said. “People are dying in chillingly high numbers. We are threatened with extinction.”
Within a year, Botswana became the first country in Africa to launch a national public sector antiretroviral program. But at the time, the expensive, lifesaving drugs were beyond the reach of the public sector’s health budgets, so innovative solutions had to be found to enable access.
The indomitable nature of the human spirit guided us all as international, regional and national stakeholders from every sector took ownership of the challenge and became part of the solution. Partnerships were formed to finance the response, to research the solutions and to implement the programs. And people living with the virus guided our every step. Within only five years, we made treatment available to 95 percent of HIV-positive people in Botswana.
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