BEHIND THE PRINCESS Marina Hospital, not far from the centre of Gaborone, are the two small buildings that house Botswana’s largest anti-retroviral therapy clinic for people with HIV/AIDS. Alongside the red-brick blocks of the main hospital complex, these prefabricated buildings seem modest and temporary, but it was here that Botswana’s ambitious HIV/AIDS treatment program – the first national scheme in Africa – was launched in early 2002. Over the past five years, the number of clinics across this sparsely populated country has grown exponentially, and there are now thirty-two sites, each with up to four satellite clinics, serving a national population of 1.8 million.
Botswana is one of the few African countries in which the urgency and scale of the government’s response to HIV/AIDS match the size of the problem, according to Alex de Waal in his recent book, AIDS and Power (Zed Books, 2006). And the scale of the problem is enormous: an estimated quarter of the adult population live with HIV/AIDS, and life expectancy – which had been predicted to reach the age of seventy by the year 2010 – has fallen to below forty.
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