Before antiretroviral therapy started to become widely available, the number of people dying due to HIV was alarmingly high. In 2002, antiretroviral therapy started to be rolled out in Botswana bringing with it a new dawn and hope that would transform HIV from a death sentence to a chronic and manageable condition.
The HIV Society
At the time, a group of passionate GPs based in Gaborone recognised the need to become updated on how to treat people with HIV with these new therapies. In 2002, the HIV Society, a non-profit organisation, was set up with an interim committee – Dr Diana Dickinson (chairperson), Dr Japhter Masunge (secretary), Dr Brighid Malone (treasurer) and Tiny Masupe (member). The HIV Society hosted its first formal gathering in winter that year, which was attended by doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and social workers from all over Botswana.
In these early days, the society’s core activity was to educate doctors. Supported by local doctors and establishing links with visiting specialists affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and the Botswana-Harvard Partnership, monthly HIV-related continuing professional development seminars were organized.
Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society
Recognising that the infant organisation needed support, it approached the well-established Johannesburg-based Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society (SAHIVCS) in order to establish a sub-group. Such sub-organisations had already been established in other southern African states including: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and Namibia.
The committee has drawn up a constitution and with the help of Jeff Bookbinder (Attorney, Collins Newman), the Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society – Botswana was registered by the Registrar of Societies (registration number: CR 6399).
The First Botswana International HIV Conference
In September 2006, the society hosted its first Botswana International HIV Conference, which was attended by clinicians from Botswana and other African states. Since then, the conference has taken place every 2 years within 6 weeks of the World International AIDS Society Conference. This allows our clinicians, who are unable to travel to international conferences, to receive relevant updates without delay.
Botswana HIV Clinicians’ Society
The society has become well established with the privilege of supporting its members. In August 2012, a motion at the Annual General Meeting resulted in the organisation becoming independent from, but maintaining links with the Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society and thereby re-established itself as the Botswana HIV Clinicians’ Society.