2003-2010

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) is thrilled to announce that it has finally been given permission to make its groundbreaking presentation at the National AIDS Council (NAC) on findings of an assessment of access to health services by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gendered community as well as a study on men who have sex with men (MSM) in May this year.

This decision was made by His Excellency, Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana at the NAC last week, following a query by BONELA as the presentation initially scheduled for May last year was cancelled at the last minute without consultation.

Commenting on this turn of events, the Director of BONELA, Mr. Uyapo Ndadi said; “As an organization, we are excited that our leaders are now more progressive and open towards issues of sexual minorities which is reflective of sound democratic principles. The fact that we were the first country to provide antiretroviral therapy to HIV to those in need was a great leap forward, but evidence reveals that this alone will be overshadowed and undermined by leaving sexual minorities in the lurch.”

In addition, BONELA’s Prevention and Research Initiative for Sexual Minorities, Coordinator, Ms. Felistus Motimedi said that Botswana can not respond adequately to an epidemic based on hearsay, but needs to engage in a holistic intervention that is evidence-based and tailor-made to suit different groups. She added that the research findings BONELA will present are unique as no such research has been conducted in Botswana before, thus it will assist the country in putting in place policies and programmes inclusive of marginalized and most at risk populations.

BONELA conducted a needs assessment on access to health services by sexual minorities and as well as a study on MSM in 2008 to determine prevalence of HIV and knowledge of HIV transmission in this community.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and her partners will hold a visibility and human rights for marginalized and most at risk populations (MARPS) march themed ‘Silent but not Mute’ on Saturday the 27th of March 2010 from 0700hrs to 1000hrs from Notwane Grounds to Riverwalk Shopping Mall in Gaborone.

On arrival at the Mall, delegates will then participate in a panel discussion entitled The Implications of Criminalization on the National HIV and AIDS Response for Marginalized Populations. The discussion will centre on panel presentations on issues such as the law and HIV/AIDS in Botswana; criminalisation as it relates to sex workers; criminalisation in relation to the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans-gendered and Inter-sexed (LGBTI) community as well as women living with HIV and discrimination.

The March is geared towards sensitizing the community on human rights, HIV and AIDS issues and the importance of involving all social groups in decision making processes and interventions, particularly the inclusion of MARPS in HIV and AIDS interventions.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA) in partnership with the District Health Team for Boteti Sub-District invites, health service providers, people living with HIV and AIDS, the media, civil society organizations and other concerned individuals to an awareness-raising march on tuberculosis (TB) on Friday the 30th of October 2009 in Letlhakane, Boteti.

BONELA has since 2008 embarked on a TB campaign to address several emerging and pertinent issues particularly addressing its efforts towards mitigating the impact of TB on people living with HIV. Tuberculosis poses one of the greatest risks to people living with HIV and AIDS. Although preventable and curable in most cases, it is the biggest killer of people living with HIV and AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 50% of people living with HIV will develop TB, and without proper treatment, approximately 90% of them will die within months. It is clear that the fight against AIDS will not be won without also fighting TB-a reality the HIV community has known for over two decades.

The TB campaign falls under BONELA’s Treatment Literacy programme. Treatment literacy is a model that empowers communities with comprehensive knowledge on issues around HIV/AIDS. This model turns ordinary people into informed advocates for health, enabling them to support the scale-up of treatment in communities and to hold governments and policy makers accountable for the delivery of quality health services.

Speaking on behalf of the DHT, Dr. Retta-Ayela, the Public Health Specialist said Boteti Sub-district is happy to partner with BONELA on the TB Campaign. Speaking in a telephone interview he said: "Boteti is one of the districts in Botswana most affected by HIV, hence the equally high incidence of TB, including multi-drug resistant TB. Prior to the partnership with BONELA, the relationship with support groups was not very strong but it has now been strengthened to ensure a collaborative outreach to communities."

Boteti sub-district has a relatively high incidence rate of TB but low cure and treatment success rates. There is therefore need to strengthen efforts towards addressing TB in Boteti, particularly adherence and ensuring patients complete their treatment According to BONELA Treatment Literacy Coordinator, Ms. Cindy Kelemi, "there is need for all stakeholders, including community members to encourage all HIV positive people to screen for TB to ensure early detection and timely initiation on treatment."

The march will be held in conjunction with networks of people living with HIV and AIDS, HIV and AIDS activists, other Civil Society Organisations and interested individuals. It will commence from Motsumi CJSS at 6am to Carnival Furnishers at Letlhakane Mall.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and her partners will hold a visibility and human rights for marginalized and most at risk populations (MARPS) march themed ‘Silent but not Mute’ on Saturday the 27th of March 2010 from 0700hrs to 1000hrs from Notwane Grounds to Riverwalk Shopping Mall in Gaborone.

On arrival at the Mall, delegates will then participate in a panel discussion entitled The Implications of Criminalization on the National HIV and AIDS Response for Marginalized Populations. The discussion will centre on panel presentations on issues such as the law and HIV/AIDS in Botswana; criminalisation as it relates to sex workers; criminalisation in relation to the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans-gendered and Inter-sexed (LGBTI) community as well as women living with HIV and discrimination.

The March is geared towards sensitizing the community on human rights, HIV and AIDS issues and the importance of involving all social groups in decision making processes and interventions, particularly the inclusion of MARPS in HIV and AIDS interventions.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA) has read with keen interest the article carried by the Daily News of Tuesday 29 October 2009 in which Mayor Harry Mothei is urging government to provide prisoners with condoms.

We are heartened by the views Mayor Mothei espoused and we commend him for being alive to what pertains on the ground. "Our view as BONELA has always been and continues to be, that prisoners are an integral part of our response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic as they too are not spared by the virus. To think that they do not engage in sexual activities whilst in prison is misguided and unfortunate," lamented BONELA Acting Director, Uyapo Ndadi, while in the United States of America.

In the said article, it is reported that the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) countered the call by saying our laws do not allow for provision of condoms to prisoners. However, Ndadi countered this assertion saying that "hiding behind laws that are out of touch with reality does our nation devastating and irreparable harm as precious lives will continue to be lost as a result of AIDS. By the time we realize that we need to have an inclusive and non-judgmental approach, it will be too late."

Ndadi said laws are not more important than our people’s lives and should not be upheld at the expense of losing our brothers and sisters. He said a crucial question that government should ask itself is who is meant to benefit from these laws and that the Government of Botswana needs to answer these questions candidly. He added that Lesotho, despite the fact that she has laws that prohibit sodomy just like Botswana, does provide prisoners with condoms. "That to us is a model of a responsive and caring nation as it is no secret that prisoners walk in and out of prison everyday and continue to engage sexually with the people from their communities. Giving prisoners condoms is to protect not only them, but the society as well" said Ndadi.

BONELA is however encouraged that political leaders are beginning to see the need to provide inmates with condoms. We gather the former president of Botswana, Mr. Festus Mogae is also advocating for the same. We hope many more political leaders will do the same and act accordingly. We call upon NACA to join on the bandwagon and drive the campaign as they are better placed to pronounce on HIV prevention measures. Failure on their part to do so will amount to failing Batswana.

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