Key Populations: Mapping & Size Estimation
Botswana has suffered severe developmental drawbacks as a result of HIV & AIDS since the mid-1980s however to date the southern African country has made remarkable recovery in improving the health and well-being of its citizens. Botswana managed through several public health initiatives that include being the first in Africa to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to all its citizens. This has positioned Botswana well to achieve the UNAIDS “90-90-90 Treatment Target’. The bulk of Botswana’s gains in this regard has however been limited to the general heterosexual population, with very little known about ‘Key Populations’ in Botswana.
The country’s National Strategic Framework on HIV & AIDS (NSF II 2010 to 2016) however stipulates the need to increase HIV prevention services among most at risk and hard to reach populations which include the four sub-populations of sex workers, people who inject drugs and other sexual minorities such as Men who have Sex with Men and Transgendered People. The country embarked on its first Mapping, Size Estimation & Behavioural and Biological Survey (BBSS) of HIV/STI among select high risk sub-populations in 2012 and is now in the midst of conducting a much broadened follow-on survey.
The first step in doing this is to ensure that communities and stakeholders country wide understand and embrace the importance of this exercise. ACHAP, in partnership with the Ministry of Health & Wellness hence embarked on a twelve district sensitization plan which came to an end in the Kweneng West village of Letlhakeng. The meeting encouraged stakeholders to participate and support the Mapping and Size Estimation component of the survey which is to be carried out in their district in the coming weeks. The appeal was made by ACHAP’s Consultancy Unit Manager, Mr. Ivor Williams during a stakeholder sensitization meeting at the Rural Administration Centre (RAC) Chamber recently.
Williams said the study’s success will be determined by the response and support of the key informants in the various districts hence they are involved in initial stages through sensitization meetings. “You are the key to revealing critical information required in the study, we therefore need your help and support as you know your communities better. Help us identify where to go and who to approach in order to garner valuable insights and first-hand data for the study” he appealed.
“The specific objectives of this study are; to establish geographic ‘hot spots’ where key populations are found in the 12 districts of Gaborone, Chobe, Tutume, Francistown, Selebi Phikwe, Palapye, Serowe, Boteti, Ngami, Okavango, Kweneng West, and Kgalagadi North. To estimate the size of four populations namely Female Sex Workers (FSW), People Who Inject Drugs (PWID), Men having Sex with Men (MSM) and Trans-Gender (TGs) in these 12 districts and to strengthen the capacity of local institutions to conduct mapping and size estimation of key populations in Botswana” Williams concluded.
Expressing his sentiments during the discussion, the coordinator for Kweneng West Network of Support Groups, Mr. Specu Segwagwa advised the team to be inclusive when consulting villagers. He expressed concern that village leaders are usually left out in surveys such as the current one and never informed about what is happening in their village. Segwagwa advocated for inclusion of everyone in the study to encourage ownership. He also requested for contact details of the research team for ease of communication. Responding to the concerns, Williams explained that the meeting was introductory stage of the consultation process and there will be further consultation forums within the village. He lamented that everyone necessary will be involved in the study and provided contacts details of the research team.
Tebelopele Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre Jwaneng team leader, Othusitse Matthews enquired on how they can assist since they are already working with MSM and FSW. Williams appreciated their eagerness to assist an explained that communication with Tebelopele management has already been established regards working together for the success of the survey. Another issue raised was that MSM and FSW have gone digital and avail their services through Facebook and WhatsApp instead of using hotspots, therefore the research team was advised to look into that.
The goal of the mapping and size estimation exercise is to establish the geographic location and estimate population size of key populations in Botswana. This information will help the national response to HIV and AIDS to achieve the even more ambitious goal of eliminating HIV in Botswana by the year 2020.