10 February 2006
Local groups protest MP’s remarks about women living with HIV/AIDS
GABORONE - Organisations responding to Botswana’s HIV pandemic are alarmed at comments made by Member of Parliament Lephimotswe Sebetela (Palapye) recently published in the media.
In a 31 January Daily News article, Sebetela said he was concerned about HIV-positive women who continue to fall pregnant and contribute to the spread of AIDS.
These comments are unfairly directing the blame only at women and are counter-productive in fighting the epidemic, say the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and Bomme Isago Association, a network of women living with HIV.
“In this era of HIV, everyone should be responsible. Men who are impregnating these women are not equally being asked about engaging in unprotected sex,” says Mary Motse, vice chairperson of Bomme Isago Association.
“If we continue to hear comments like this, we will see our country’s efforts against HIV/AIDS regress. In this hostile environment, women may not feel comfortable to seek advice about and enrol in prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) programmes,” she adds.
It is also not clear what information serves as the basis for statements laying the blame on women living with HIV.
“We need to fully understand the situation in which HIV-positive women are becoming pregnant,” says BONELA Director Christine Stegling. “While they have a right to control their reproductive health, they may not always be in a situation where they can make these choices.”
BONELA is a Gaborone-based non-governmental organisation working on the ethical, legal and human rights dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana. BONELA is involved in research, training, advocacy, legal assistance and public education. Established last year, Bomme Isago Association is a growing network which boasts more than 50 members around Botswana. The group aims to support women living with HIV and AIDS.
For further information or requests for a media interview, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media Relations Officer, at 393-2516.