2003-2010

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.

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.

21 April 2006
BONELA applauds efforts to open debates on homosexuality and sex workers in an era of HIV/AIDS

GABORONE - Botswana’s Prisons Commissioner Herman Kau has been making press headlines recently, quoted as calling for a review of policies on sex work and homosexuality aimed at making practical gains in the fight against the HIV epidemic.

Kau’s comments have started a debate that is necessary in the context of HIV/AIDS, according to the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA).

“It’s about time we face some of these challenges about the epidemic,” says the organisation’s Director Christine Stegling. “As long as we marginalise people, they will not be accessible to us nor, for example, able to access public health services, information or the tools to prevent infection.”

To open up the discussion on such issues is a sensible step to take because what is needed is a change in community attitudes towards and in legislative framework around such controversies.

In the days after Commissioner Kau’s comments, it has become apparent that many are ignorant about these topics, wrongly arguing that legalising sex work and homosexuality, for example, would create demand for specific sexual behaviours. What is more certain is that these activities already exist in society and should be included in strategies concerning HIV/AIDS. Botswana may only meet its goal to prevent new HIV cases only if all segments of society are involved.

In the spirit of botho and respecting diversity, BONELA has been taking a stand against discriminating against different forms of sexual behaviours. The organisation, for example, lends its support to the group LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana) and would like to promote further discussion on the issue of condom distribution in prisons.

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.

30 May 2006
Botswana Civil Society excluded from effectively participating in UNGASS Meeting

Civil society organizations in Botswana today note their discontent about the exclusion of critical NGOs from the national delegation representing Botswana at the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) which is currently taking place in New York.

At a meeting between some of the key civil society players in the national response to HIV/AIDS (BONASO, BONEPWA, BONELA, BOCAIP and YOHO), representatives lamented the fact that the Botswana government has only included one civil society partner in the delegation (a representative of the network of people living with HIV/AIDS). This occurred regardless of the fact that appeals have been made to ensure there was wider civil society participation at the meeting.

Botswana has made a commitment to implement a multi-sectoral response to the epidemic. Many civil society organizations have contributed significantly to the challenges posed by HIV to Botswana society, notably, NGOs have worked in the area of orphan care, involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS, youth empowerment, provision of care and support, provision of free legal services to people who have been discriminated and policy and legislative development to name a few.

It is imperative that the ideas and expertise represented by civil society will be present at the high level event in order to impact on the declaration that will form the outcome of the meeting.

The exclusion of most NGOs from the national delegation will result in the Botswana government representing a government position rather than a national one, indicating that Botswana does not take NGOs as serious and valuable partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This sign of disrespect for civil society as partners was also apparent when the only civil society representative in the delegation was excluded from the official briefing of President Mogae in preparation for the meeting.

The lack of confidence and support for civil society to meaningfully participate at the UNGASS is deeply worrying and undermines the multi-sectoral response to HIV in Botswana. We appeal to the Botswana Government to establish open and transparent structures for the selection and preparation of national delegations that are to represent the country at high-level international meetings. We furthermore request that an official report will be made available to the Botswana public illustrating the proceedings, challenges and outcomes of the high-level meeting in New York.

Botswana Network of AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO)
Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA)
Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA)
Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme (BOCAIP)
Youth Health Organisation (YOHO)

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

11 April 2006
AIDS rights organisations excluded from participation at UNGASS

GABORONE and WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA - The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) today condemn the governments of the Republics of Namibia and South Africa for their exclusion of ARASA and its partner organisations, the AIDS Law Unit in Namibia and the AIDS Law Project and the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, from participation in the United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Review to be held in New York in May 2006. This silencing of human rights organisations in the region is alarming.

ARASA is the only regional alliance promoting a human rights-based response to HIV/AIDS in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). ARASA, with its regional secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia, comprises of fourteen non-governmental organisations working in all SADC countries. All ARASA partners, including BONELA, join in this condemnation and are issuing similar press releases in all SADC countries today.

ARASA and three of its partners were excluded from the final list of civil society organisations approved by the UN General Assembly to participate in the UNGASS Review as a result of objections to their accreditation being lodged by the governments of the Republics of Namibia and South Africa. These exclusions impact negatively on all of us.

The UNGASS Review is a critical gathering for leaders around the world where governments and civil society will assess global progress on combating the epidemic and commitments on HIV/AIDS made by government leaders at the first UNGASS in 2001. At that time world leaders committed to the ‘full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all [as] an essential element of the global response to the epidemic’.

Excluding human rights organisations working at the epicenter of the epidemic undermines efforts to effectively assess the human rights-based response to HIV and AIDS and calls into question the credibility of the entire UNGASS Review process.

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 more information and/or interviews, please contact:
(in Gaborone) Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer: (+267) 393-2516
(in Windhoek) Michaela Clayton, ARASA Director: (+264) 811272367 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BACKGROUND NOTES FOR BONELA MEDIA RELATIONS STAFF:

  • Accreditation process for UNGASS review based on non-objection; intended for governments not to object unreasonably for civil society to participate
  • Namibian government objected to two human rights organisations without giving reasons
  • South African government objected to Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and AIDS Law Project (ALP)

QUOTE (Christine Stegling):
“If governments behave this way that they object to those that may be critical or trying to open the debate on certain issues, then it defeats the purpose of including civil society. It also questions the process of accreditation. We are concerned that it sets a worrying precedent for future UN or international meetings, for example, on issues like racism or gender-based violence, where governments could simply exclude whomever it chooses to.”

  • Botswana: accredited for civil society participation includes BONASO, BONELA, LeGaBiBo (who have applied and not been objected to by the government)
QUOTE (Christine Stegling):
“The Botswana government has, in this case, proven itself to take a more liberal position and is not scared of criticism or hearing different viewpoints in how to deal with such a monumental issue as HIV/AIDS.”

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

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