The President, His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi says that the Botswana Government is committed to strengthening the partnership between the Government and Harvard University in the US. The President was addressing the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) delegation on the 27th January 2023 who had paid him a courtesy visit at Office of the President.
BHP was established by a partnership between the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) of Harvard University. The BHP delegation was headed by Harvard University Professor of Public Health, Prof. Roger Shapiro who is also the Board Chairman of BHP.
President Masisi noted that Botswana owes Harvard University a lot of gratitude for helping Botswana address HIV/AIDS during Former President Festus Mogae's Presidency when the country was being ravaged by the endemic HIV/AIDS disease. He thanked Harvard University for its ingenuity in sciences which he said what made Botswana pull through when faced with its first foremost greatest risk that threatened humankind.
“We are committed to supporting BHP and strengthening this partnership,” he said, adding that they should rekindle the relationship that Former President Mogae cultivated with Harvard University.
“I don’t want a time limited relationship, I want an enduring relationship. We should have fellows in Harvard and Harvard should have fellows here. When you teach students, they should come and do their residence here,” emphasized the president.
BHP Chief Executive Officer, Dr Joseph Makhema informed the President that through the BHP Capacity Building and Training Initiative, there is already an existing training and fellows exchange where doctors and fellows come from HSPH and Harvard affiliated hospitals to come and train and do capacity building at the BHP lab, University of Botswana and Scottish Livingstone Hospital.
President Masisi then noted that Botswana shall continue to learn from Harvard and draw from its competencies as his Government is committed to drive a knowledge based and research-intensive based economy to provide solutions not only for Botswana but for the region and the world.
“We could not have found a better partner than BHP. We are proud that one of our own through the ground that you laid, we discovered the omicron. I was so proud I rushed to the lab and that was my first time in the lab,” said Dr Masisi.
Speaking to the media after the meeting with the president, BHP Board chairman, Prof Roger Shapiro noted the need to continue the partnership with Government. He said BHP is still committed to find solutions to the ongoing struggle against HIV/AIDS and other public health challenges. He also pointed out that BHP is leading in pathogen genomics and would want to explore sequencing different pathogens as well as growing other research programmes.
He stated that because of the broadened scope of the BHP research, the institute has now changed its name to Botswana Harvard Health Partnership to reflect the completeness of its mission and expansion beyond just HIV research.
The BHP delegation was made up of Board Chairman, Prof.Roger Shapiro, BHP CEO, Dr Joseph Makhema, BHP Deputy CEO Designee, Dr Gaerolwe Masheto and accompanied by the Minister of Health, Dr Edwin Dikoloti and Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Moses Keetile.