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Statement by BONELA at World AIDS Day
06/12/11

With reference to the above, Government wishes to register its dissapointment at the disruption caused at yesterday's World AIDS Day celebrations by the Botswana Network for Ethic, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA). While Government respects BONELA's right to advocate its perspectives, while also reserving our responsibility to agree and disagree with the said perspectives as may be appropriate, we find it most unfortunate that the organisation chose to intrude in an official space during a ceremony to circulate unauthorised material without proper notification. As a matter of simple courtesy we would have expected better from an organisation that has all along been a recognised stakeholder in national efforts to combat the virus.
 
With specific reference to some of the issues raised by BONELA. we further note the follwing:
 
1.   Provision of condoms to prisoners to curb the spread of HIV
 
Government remains committed to protecting prison inmates against HIV and AIDS. The position of the Government of Botswana on condoms and prisons has not changed as it is informed international as well as domestic, practice, norms and ethics governing prisons, as well as domestic law. Sodomy in prisons is simply not tolerated here or elsewhere. We would further observe that Botswana provides health care services in prisons within the confines of the Public Health Act, the Prisons Act and other relevant pieces of legislation such as the Penal Code, and the Prisons HIV and AIDS Policy. The policy environment for provision of services in prisons is guided by the Public Health Act, National Policy on HIV and AIDS and the National Health Policy. In addition to counseling and testing, prison inmates have access to TB treatment, ART, Safe Male Circumcision and Community Home Based Care. 
 
2.   Involvement of homosexuals  and sex workers in all HIV interventions
 
Government is aware that people of different sexual orientations such as homosexuals are at high risk of HIV infection due to a number of reasons. This fact alone does not suggest a wholesale reaction that will contravene existing laws and policies.  In this context the provision of of HIV intervention services does not exclude anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation.
 
With respect to BONELA's call for the Decriminalization of sex work, we wish to note that as is the case in most countries sex work is illegal in Botswana. Notwithstanding this fact, we again do not exclude anybody from our HIV/AIDS interventions on the basis of alleged involvement in sex work.
 
Further to the above The Modes of Transmission study we conducted in 2010 tells us that new infections are more likely to occur in heterosexual relationships especially among married, cohabiting or long-term relations, estimated to be 56.4%. The study estimated that sex workers contribute 5%, men having sex with other men 5%, while injecting drug users contribute 1.5% of new HIV infections. While we have not turned a blind eye to these seemingly smaller contributions, we believe our attention ought to concentrate where new infections are likely to occur most, and that is what we have been doing.      
 
In delivering Keynote Address at the World AIDS Day in Moshupa yesterday His Excellency the President, Lt. General Ian Khama Seretse Khama reaffirmed that Government with the support of other partners has been providing services to Most at Risk Populations and ‘programming for some of these population groups is already taking place through various partners and institutions. We do this, mindful that our programmes are underpinned by the country’s laws, policies, values and moral principles’.
 
3.   PMTCT to foreign Women expectant with Batswana men
 
Botswana Government does not provide PMTCT to foreign women who are expectant with Batswana children since ARVs are only provided for citizens. However, there is access to PMTCT for foreign women impregnated by Batswana men at a cost. This we hold is reasonable and in keeping with international practice as well as domestic capacity.
 
4.   Provision of foreign inmates with antiretroviral drugs for treatment to prevent the spread of ARVs.
 
According to the National ARV Guidelines, only Batswana inmates are provided with ARVs as part of its obligation to its citizenry.As a developing country, Botswana does not have the capacity to extend free ARVs to none citizens. Government is aware that foreign inmates who are not able to access ARV treatment have the opportunity to infect those in their sexual networks with HIV including the Batswana inmates. However the need to provide to citizens first overrides the desire to extend some of these expensive services to non-Batswana.
 
5.   Provision of refugees with ARVs
 
Refugees and asylum seekers at refugee camps in Dukwi are being provided with ARV treatment through Non- Governmental Organizations.
 
6.   Discrimination
 
The provisions of the law in relation to safe working environment places an obligation on employers to ensure that discrimination and victimization of workers living with HIV do not take place at the workplace. The national HIV and AIDS policy places an obligation on employers to ensure that infected workers are not discriminated against or subjected to stigmatization. On the other hand, In the area of stigma and discrimination, Botswana has done fairly well over the years. We have seen Batswana become more tolerant and accepting of People Living with HIV and AIDS.

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