- Botswana is experiencing one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. The national HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15 to 49 is 24.1 percent, which is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The United Nations Development Programme estimates that by 2010 more than 20 percent of all children in Botswana will be orphaned.
- HIV/AIDS threatens the many developmental gains Botswana has achieved since its independence in 1966, including economic growth, political stability, a rise in life expectancy, and the establishment of functioning public educational and health care systems.
I can't tell you how sad these facts make me. At first glance, these might just seem like common statistics and facts regarding AIDS in Africa, but to me, this information has much deeper meaning. You see, in the two years I have lived here, I have grown to love many adults in that 15-49 year age range. When I read that 24.1 percent of this age group are HIV positive, I wonder how many of those people I care about are included in that percentage. When I read that more than 20% of all children will be orphaned here, I wonder how many of those are students I taught or children I worked with in the children's ministry at church. How many of those children have sat in my lap, held my hand, or given me a hug? And how many are not yet orphaned, but have parents that fit into the first statistic? It just breaks my heart.
Today my class was on a mini-field trip to a local lodge here in Maun. We went on a walking safari and while walking, one of my students stepped on a thorny branch. Unfortunately she wasn't wearing very good shoes, and one of the thorns punctured her foot. When I handed her best friend a Band-Aid and she went close to put it on her friend's foot, the kids around them spoke urgently, "No, don't!" One thing I've gotten used to about living here is that when someone is bleeding, you do not go near that blood. If you have to treat them, you wear plastic gloves. If you don't have gloves, you don't touch. That's just reality here. With almost 1/4 of the population HIV positive, people are forced into being extremely cautious.
My student didn't mind putting her own Band-Aid on (I'm sure she totally understood) and nothing else was mentioned, but this scene stuck with me all day. And my heart broke again for this very sad reality these kids have to live with.
Please could you say a prayer today for Botswana and all countries dealing with this ongoing battle with the HIV/AIDS, especially for all the children whose lives have been severely affected by it.