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.

09 February 2006
The Honourable Prof. Sheila Tlou to open meeting on HIV testing and confidentiality

GABORONE - The Hon. Professor Sheila Tlou, the Minister of Health, will deliver the keynote address at a stakeholders’ meeting that will release the findings of a study on confidentiality with respect to HIV testing in Botswana. The research was conducted jointly by the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Washington, DC-based Policy Project.

The media are invited to attend the event on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 8:00 a.m. at Big Five Lodge.

It is the first time such a comprehensive study on this critical aspect of the HIV epidemic has been conducted in Botswana.  The study carried out by the two organisations involved interviewing 154 health care workers in a total of 32 facilities in communities around Botswana. Those interviewed included health care auxiliary workers, doctors and administrators in sites ranging from three-room health posts to large hospitals.

“We are very adamant that we will take these findings back into the community to improve confidentiality in Botswana’s health care setting,” said BONELA Director Christine Stegling.

“It’s important for confidentiality to be adhered to at all times to ensure the public’s trust in health care services. This trust is at the core of accessing health programmes.”

The purpose of the meeting will be to develop a plan of action, including training initiatives, policy development and practical solutions to improve confidentiality in the context of HIV testing based on the findings of this research.

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 Policy Project is a USAID-funded project based in Washington but with offices and projects around the world examining the impact of policy development.

For more information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media Relations Officer at 393-2516.

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.

For more information contact BONELA on Tel: 393 2516, Fax: 393 2517, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

21 November 2005
The Honourable P. Skelemani to launch Botswana’s first training manual on human rights and HIV

GABORONE - The Honourable P. Skelemani, the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration will officially unveil Botswana’s first-ever human rights resource and training manual related to HIV/AIDS.

The event will take place on Thursday, 24 November 2005 at 8 a.m. at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) where the Minister will deliver the keynote address.

The only one of its kind, Human Rights and HIV: A Manual for Action was developed and published by the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA).

Until the publication of this 14-module, English and Setswana bilingual manual, no training materials existed on human rights and HIV in the country. Its birth was the result of interest in and requests for information on this topic that BONELA staff increasingly faced when meeting face-to-face with the community at the organisation’s training workshops and presentations.

“This is a first step in formalizing education about human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic, which is presenting our society with so many challenges,” said BONELA Director Christine Stegling.

“This initiative will empower members of the community—including people living with HIV and AIDS, health care workers, police officers and other service providers—to understand and apply human rights in their everyday lives.”

BONELA conducted original research to incorporate local experience and insight into a publication uniquely focused on Botswana.

The manual addresses such topics as:

  • Understa nding HIV and AIDS
  • HIV/AIDS and the Law in Botswana
  • The Right to Health
  • Testing for HIV
  • Your Rights at Work
  • Women, HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
  • Men, HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
  • Youth, Children, HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
  • Wills and Inheritance

Human Rights and HIV: A Manual for Action is a key element of BONELA’s training activities. No other non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the country has produced such a comprehensive training programme.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS is a non-governmental organisation committed to integrating an ethical, legal and human rights approach into Botswana’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

For more information, please contact Cynthia Lee, Media Relations Officer at (+267) 393-2516

31 January 2005
Response to Debswana cutting ARV supply to former employees

Last week there were reports in the media that DEBSWANA has terminated the supply of Anti-retroviral drugs to some of the 461 workers the company dismissed for participating in an illegal strike last year. DEBSWANA says it has decided to do this because their ARV enrolment programme is a benefit exclusive to DEBSWANA employees.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) believes that while DEBSWANA has the right to cut the ARV treatment of recently dismissed employees, the company should have made sure that the people are now on the government ARV programme (MASA). The cutting of the ARV treatment should have been a gradual process, where they should have made sure that each former employee is now on the government programme.

It is essential that the taking of the ARV drugs not be disrupted as this can have serious consequences for not only the individual patient but also for society at large. For the individual patient it is very important to take the right combination of ARV drugs every day, at the right time and with or without food. Failing to do this could make the patient develop new strands of HIV and become resistant to the antiretroviral drugs.

If individuals stop their ARV treatment, they are likely to eventually develop opportunistic infections, in which case their families and the already overburdened health care system will have to take care of them. Also, the development and potential transmission of ARV resistant strands of HIV could have devastating effects for the public.

DEBSWANA should have contacted all people concerned to make arrangements for continued treatment as enrolling and starting the government ARV programme is likely to take time and stopping abruptly the ARV treatment could have disastrous consequences.

For more information contact BONELA on Tel: 393 2516, Fax: 393 2517, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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