Retired Botswana Nurses Are Tireless in Taking on Country’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

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uring one of Lesego’s darkest hours, some unexpected visitors arrived at his house. At the time, the 36 year-old man could barely muster enough strength to answer the door. On top of battling epilepsy and HIV, Lesego had recently suffered a stroke. He could hardly walk or talk, let alone work or take care of himself.

The visitors, community outreach volunteers from NPI partner Botswana Retired Nurses Society (BORNUS) were there to connect him to services at BORNUS’ Community Relief Day Care Centre (CRDCC). Opened in 2003 and staffed by retired nurses, the Centre caters to chronically sick adults, most of whom are HIV-positive, by providing meals, games, peer support and skills development such as gardening classes. BORNUS also offers home-based care and pick-up and drop-off services for those who cannot make it to the Centre on their own.

BORNUS was conceived by a group of nurses who came together in Tlokweng, a small southeastern village, in response to the call of former President Festus Mogae to wage war against HIV/AIDS in Botswana, which has the second highest prevalence rate in Africa. While most of the Centre’s nurses “should be relaxing and playing with their grandchildren,” according to Centre Director Mavis Kewakae, they instead choose to spend their retirements caring for hundreds of patients like Lesego and taking on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their country.

With funding and technical assistance from NPI, BORNUS is scaling up its capacity to care for more patients and provide integrated services to orphans and other vulnerable children. The organization has more than doubled its CRDCC staff from 21 to 53 people, opened facilities in two new villages and is strengthening its management systems through the hands-on training it receives from NPI.

For Lesego, BORNUS’ impact has been dramatic. Volunteers brought him to the BORNUS Centre five days a week, where nurses monitored his health. They placed him on a special diet and supervised medication to control his conditions. He exercised with the help of the nurses to recover his strength and balance. He regained fine motor skills through gardening. And he completed speech exercises to communicate clearly and with confidence.

After a year’s rehabilitation at the Centre, Lesego gained sufficient strength and self-assurance to land a steady job at a lock manufacturing company.

Because these retired nurses are not content to rest on their laurels, Lesego and others like him are able to benefit from a range of services, including speech therapy counseling and job training and placement. Ultimately, the retired nurses supported by NPI do much more than provide care to patients; they give people like Lesego a second chance at the future.