Gender equity and equality have gained attention at the global level, given their effects on socio- economic development and health. The International Conference on Population Development held in 1994 and the Millennium Development Goal Number 3, the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, attest to the magnitude of the gender dynamics. The Botswana health system places a priority on women’ and children’s health programmes, in general. The advent of HIV and AIDS poses dynamic challenges, however, that require multilevel interventions that are cognizant of the epidemic as a reproductive health adversary and social determinant.
As the health landscape has changed, gender and HIV and AIDS mainstreaming became inevitable and programmes that were gender biased had to be reoriented to take the health needs of men and boys into consideration. For example:
- The Maternal Child Health/Family Planning Program has been reoriented toward Sexual Reproductive Health in order to address the broader gender issues, including other cultural aspects that have an impact on health. There is a male involvement initiative including mainstreaming of gender into Sexual Reproductive Health services. SRH advocates for labour companions within maternity settings, male partners to accompany their partners during antenatal care, labour and delivery, and child welfare services.
- The PMTCT has a male involvement initiative to encourage male engagement in and support on sexual reproductive issues. The programme, in collaboration with Pathfinder International, is implementing the peer mother programme and peer programme for males.
- The Sexually Transmitted Infections programme identified partner tracing as a challenge in the management of STIs resulting in the development of target specific interventions for the at-risk groups, e.g., mobile populations. In addition, male circumcision has been adopted as an add-on strategy in the prevention of HIV and women have a dual role to support their male counterparts and sons.
- The Workplace Wellness Programmes have been using peer education and support as a strategy to reach out to the workforce. The programme advocates for the establishment of multidisciplinary committees that are also gender balanced.
- The HIV Testing & Counselling Programme has a component on couple counselling in recognition of the gender dynamics of HIV and AIDS, including the impact of gender on the uptake of programmes, such as HIV Testing, ARV and PMTCT.
- Behaviour Change Interventions and Communications (BCIC) have, in the development of BCIC messages, recognized the gender dimension of HIV and AIDS in all age groups.
- The Community Home-Based Care Programme has acknowledged the gender bias with regard to the provision of care and support services; hence efforts are being made to encourage men to play an active role.