I've officially been in Botswana for three months today. I've touched on this in one of my earlier posts, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in my routine that I forget the real reason I'm here. I'm living in Gaborone to volunteer with the Botswana Network of AIDS Organizations (BONASO). While my work isn't going to change the state of AIDS in Botswana, it will, at the very least, help me gain insight into simultaneously the most hope-filled and heartbreaking situation of which I've ever been a part.
In a country where cheating is a way of life, and AIDS is viewed by some as an inevitability, there is still a long way to go. Much longer than, say, nine years. The UN-created Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to eliminate HIV transmission by 2015, may ease hearts of the West, but they are a slap in the face to the people working in countries like Botswana. Putting a deadline on one the most valiant fights of our time is, at best, irrelevant. Watching the clock tick down is nothing but a reminder that this "goal" will not be accomplished. What's needed is a generous programming budget, readily available ARVs and testing sites, and the dedication required to beat this disease, regardless of how long it takes.
A person could read this article and think that working in this situation has made me jaded. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen so much hope in these three short months that I know an end is in sight. It will take a massive co-ordinated effort, but if the rest of the world could harness a fraction of the perseverance found here, AIDS will be beaten. I'm excited to see the progress that can be made even in my remaining three months.