2003-2010

14 November 2006
Private sector capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS to be addressed by National AIDS Council Ethics, Law and Human Rights Sector workshop

GABORONE—A one-day capacity building workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of private businesses to respond to HIV/ AIDS is to be held on Thursday, 16 November 2006, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC).

Ms. Tapiwa Marumo, Registrar of the Industrial Court, will deliver the keynote address at the workshop, which will bring together private business owners to assess and build their awareness of ethical, legal and human rights issues in the context of HIV /AIDS as relates to their respective industries. It also aims to build private sector capacity to mainstream ethical, legal and human rights issues into their individual responses.

The workshop is being hosted by the Ethics, Law and Human Rights (ELHR) sector of the National AIDS Council, which has been mandated to facilitate the integration of ethical, law and human rights into Botswana’s national response to HIV/AIDS.

The ELHR Sector has recently produced a report reviewing Botswana’s existing laws and policies related to HIV/AIDS. The report presents recommendations for legal reform, including changes to the Employment Act to address issues of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. It is appropriate to raise awareness among stakeholders—both employers and employees—regarding current HIV-related employment issues.

The secretariat of the ELHR Sector is the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), a Gaborone-based non-governmental organisation working on the ethical, legal and human rights dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana.

For further information about this event, please contact Gladness Diana Meswele, NAC ELHR Sector Coordinator, at 393-2516

30 October 2006
Call for an HIV employment law gains support

GABORONE - A large coalition of organisations and individuals have launched a campaign urging the Botswana Government and policymakers to put in place a law to protect HIV-related rights in the workplace.

Because such a law does not currently exist in Botswana, there is no binding protection for workers who have, for example, been dismissed because of their HIV-positive status or have been forced to undergo an HIV test before they can be considered for a job.

These and other violations of HIV-related rights at the workplace have long been concerns for the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU)—two organisations spearheading the coalition, which lists trade unions, civil society organisations and support groups of people living with HIV/AIDS among its growing number of members.

In a landmark 2003 case involving the firing of an HIV-positive employee by the Botswana Building Society, a judge ruled that while the National Policy on HIV/AIDS had strong persuasive moral authority in the court, it was not a binding law that could be applied to protect workers’ rights.  In the judge’s opinion it is Parliament’s responsibility to turn this policy into law.

Since 2002, BONELA and BFTU along with other concerned organisations have been working to have such a law created and passed.  However, the Government’s delay in enacting a law has prompted the coalition to adopt a new approach through the campaign, which boasts the slogan, “HIV EMPLOYMENT LAW. NOW!”

Botswana has waited long enough, says BFTU acting president  Patrick Chengeta. “Now we should move. The courts have announced that without a policy workers are vulnerable. The Government has a social responsibility."

As part of the campaign, the coalition is distributing a petition nationally and internationally, collecting signatures both on paper and—believed to be the first time in Botswana—online at BONELA’s website (www.bonela.org). Momentum for the campaign has grown rapidly with over 1000 individuals signing their support within the first three weeks of its launch. The collected petitions will eventually be presented to Parliament and the Botswana Government to urge action on enacting the law.

A peaceful demonstration march will also begin at 7 a.m. on 11 November in Gaborone when supporters will rally the cause from outside the National Stadium to Main Mall.

"The fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be won without a commitment to human rights, including the right to work," says BONELA Director Christine Stegling. "It is crucial that citizens and residents of this country demand their rights and show support for this bill by signing the petition, participating in the march and talking to their MPs."


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.

The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) is the national trade union federation for Botswana. Founded in 1977, it represents the vast majority of all trade unions in the country.

For further information or requests for media interviews for the HIV Employment Law Campaign, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.

06 July 2006
More children living with HIV need access to paediatric care

GABORONE - The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) would like to clarify the statistics presented in a press release issued on 27 June 2006 on the matter above.

In the previous press release, BONELA stated, “There is an alarming prevalence of HIV/AIDS in children. According to UNAIDS/WHO, 14,000 children are living with the virus in Botswana. But only about 1,500 are on treatment, says a spokesperson for Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence.”

For the record, it should be stated that this figure—1,500—refers to those on treatment only at Botswana-Baylor. According to MASA, the national ARV programme, the total number of children on ARV therapy in Botswana is estimated at 5,407 as of April 2006.

BONELA has issued this clarification because, in our view, accurate information about HIV/AIDS is a crucial component of the fight against the epidemic. BONELA apologises for any inconvenience caused by this unintentional oversight. Please find attached a corrected version of the original press release for your reference.

The original press release centred on a 5 July seminar on Children, HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, hosted by BONELA. Based on the input of stakeholders and presenters at the seminar, BONELA continues to maintain that access to specialised treatment and care for children must be made a reality.

Among the findings and recommendations from the seminar are:

  • the need to review the National AIDS Policy to make special provisions for children since they are a vulnerable sector of the population;
  • the need to promote community and organizational outreach for children living with disabilities, especially visually- and hearing-impaired children to enhance their access services and HIV/AIDS information; and,
  • the need to reach out to caregivers and enhance the level of care for children, including those living with disabilities.

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.

For further information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.

16 October 2006
MEDIA FACT SHEET - THE HIV EMPLOYMENT LAW CAMPAIGN

WHAT IS THE CAMPAIGN?
The HIV Employment Law Campaign is a multi-partner campaign calling on the Botswana Government and policymakers to enact and pass a law to protect HIV-related rights in the workplace.

The campaign consists of:

  • nation-wide efforts to circulate a petition, collecting signatures of people in support of passing the law;
  • a public march and rally on 11 November in Gaborone; and,
  • an awareness-raising media campaign, which includes a billboard, posters, leaflets, radio jingles and media coverage.

The HIV Employment Law Campaign is aimed at encouraging all concerned individuals, workers, unions, students and youth to become involved in urging the government to pass such a law. They are being asked to:

  • sign the petition;
  • participate in the 11 November march and rally;
  • contact their MPs about the issue; and,
  • spread the word about the campaign.

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR THE CAMPAIGN?
In Botswana, there is currently no law specifically protecting HIV-related rights in the context of employment.

In the absence of such a law, individuals do not have guaranteed protection against many acts of HIV-related discrimination in the workplace. These situations include:

  • the dismissal of workers in Botswana because they are HIV positive;
  • insistence by companies that people test for HIV before they are hired;
  • denial of promotion or training opportunities because of an individual’s HIV-positive status; and,
  • refusal of time off for caregivers to care for family members living with HIV.

While there are policies recommending measures to protect the rights of people infected and affected by HIV, these policies are not legally binding. This means they are implemented only at the subjective discretion of each employer.


29 June 2006
More children living with HIV need access to paediatric care

GABORONE - Children living with HIV in Botswana are among the most vulnerable and do not currently have adequate access to specialised care, says the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA).

To bring attention to this issue, BONELA is hosting a one day seminar aimed at raising stakeholders’ awareness and highlighting the importance of a children’s rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS. The seminar will be held at Maharaja Conference Centre on Wednesday, 5 July 2006 at 8:30a.m.

There is an alarming prevalence of HIV/AIDS in children. According to UNAIDS/WHO, 14,000 children are living with the virus in Botswana. According to MASA, the national ARV programme, the total number of children on ARV therapy in Botswana is estimated at 5,407 as of April 2006.

BONELA is calling on affected stakeholders to bring children to the forefront of campaigns against HIV/AIDS.

“As a vulnerable sector of the population, children have few opportunities to advocate for themselves when it comes to health care addressing their specific and diverse needs,” says BONELA Director Christine Stegling.

“We hope to engage relevant stake-holders at this forum, which is aimed at placing children’s rights at the centre of any response to HIV/AIDS for young people.”

Representatives from UNICEF’s Unite for children, Unite Against HIV/AIDS Campaign, Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence, and Childline are among the invited speakers at the event.

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.

For further information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.

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