Poverty & Healthcare

A crisis of the first magnitude

Botswana has been badly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; a quarter of adults (15-49 years) are infected and over 90,000 children have lost at least one parent.



In this video… Offana talks about HIV/AIDS and explains the need for education and understanding. He and his friends help people with HIV/AIDS.

In 2001, Botswana’s president called the epidemic “a crisis of the first magnitude”.

A lifeline for sufferers

Life expectancy plummeted from 67 years in 1990 to 52 years in 2000 because of AIDS/HIV. Botswana became the first African country to provide free universal antiretroviral treatment in 2002.

Over 80% of sufferers are now covered, according to 2010 World Health Organization guidelines which stipulate an early start for treatment. (Under old guidelines, the coverage was more than 95%.) Life expectancy has risen to 61 years.

With widespread access to antiretroviral therapy, AIDS-related deaths have halved (since 2002) to around 9,000 annually.

Medication is thought to have saved the lives of 50,000 adults and will avert the deaths of an estimated 130,000 by 2016.

Healthcare provision

Healthcare services are provided by a network of clinics in villages and towns across Botswana, as well as by referral to large state hospitals, such as those in Gaborone and Francistown.

Common illnesses

Botswana’s dry climate and lack of surface water limit cases of tropical diseases such as malaria and sleeping sickness. The most common illnesses are intestinal (diarrheal and digestive diseases) and respiratory (pneumonia and tuberculosis).

Basic healthcare is available for a nominal cost in state-run facilities. There is also a growing private health sector and the country has many herbalists and traditional healers.

Two ends of the scale

Despite its middle-income status, poor sections of society remain in Botswana, where one in ten children are underweight and a third have stunted growth.

At the other end of the scale, with the increasing prosperity of many families, one in ten children is overweight.

As the country becomes wealthier, changing diets and lifestyles are increasing the incidence of problems such as strokes and heart disease.