02 April 2005
Discrimination and Access to Care Seminar
On Saturday 2 April 2005 Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) met with over 40 HIV/AIDS activists, policy makers, legal professionals, academics, representatives of the uniformed forces, the media and members of the public at the President Hotel to discuss the issue of Discrimination and Access to Health Care in relation to Botswana’s diverse sexual identities.
BONELA has noted with great concern a growing de-sexualisation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country. In other words many of our HIV/AIDS programmes do not address sexuality as a fundamental part of their work despite knowing that in Botswana HIV is mainly transmitted through sexual activities. This makes it essential to include everyone - including those that live non heterosexual lives- in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country and the workshop was a way of opening debate on such issues.
Workshop participants noted that there are misconceptions about existing laws criminalizing same-sex-sexual activity in Botswana. Legal practitioners emphasized that it is the so called acts against the order of nature that are illegal, while openly discussing non-heterosexual sexual identities and including those in sexual health programmes is not punishable by Botswana laws. However, participants called for the introduction of private morality as a concept in local laws to ensure the non-discrimination of people with non-heterosexual sexual identities.
The fact that Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials are focused on people with heterosexual identities and ignore those with other existing sexual identities was noted with great concern. This prevents people from these communities from accessing much needed relevant health information and ultimately may lead to risky sexual behavior.
The workshop concluded with calls for research to assess the needs and situation of people who lead non heterosexual lives so that well documented information is available to health care providers, NGO’s and policy makers. The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual community of Botswana was encouraged to openly advocate for their rights. Health care providers and service NGO’s agreed that an open door policy is needed to reach the diverse communities of Botswana, and providing health care for all will eventually result in no new infections in the year 2016.