21 February 2012:
BONELA Commemorates 10 Years of Existence
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) invites the nation to join the organization in celebrating its 10 years of successful existence since its establishment on the 26th of February 2002.
BONELA was founded in 2002 following the realization that whilst Botswana had made the first crucial step of providing treatment to people living with HIV and AIDS, efforts towards mitigating the rapid and high rate of new infections were not bearing much fruit as they did not hinge nor revolve on the recognition of the fundamental role of human rights.
The inception of the organization was thus premised on the recognition that despite provision of treatment, other facets of the response to the epidemic such as access to voluntary counseling and testing (VCT); treatment and prevention were adversely affected by societal stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV, which significantly hampered uptake of VCT; behavior change and adherence to treatment.
To date, BONELA believes that stigma and discrimination which was at its peak in the era of its formation, was then as it is now, perpetuated by a non-conducive policy and legal environment. Hence, advocacy for law reform formed the backbone of the organization’s change efforts in the response to HIV and AIDS in Botswana.
In its attempt to achieve this formable mandate, regardless of lack of political will and general societal intolerance towards most at risk populations (MARPs) — Children, including Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs), Women and Men, People living with Disabilities, Sexual Minorities, Refugees, Prisoners and Migrant Workers, BONELA has over the years grown in size and scope, becoming a well established and recognized brand at the household, national, regional and international levels. Its erstwhile efforts have been rubber stamped by various accolades the organization received in acknowledgment of its impact. These include:
- 2008 AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) HIV and Human Rights Award in recognition of excellence in the fight against HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis and the promotion of a human rights based response to the twin epidemics in southern Africa.
- 2010 First Runner up for the Southern Africa AIDS Trust (SAT) Drivers of Change Award
- 2010 Junior Chamber International Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (JCI TOYP) award in the category of contribution to children, world peace and/or human rights awarded to the Director of BONELA.
These awards were based on BONELA’s groundbreaking work, resulting in the following:
- Recognition of stigma and discrimination of most at risk populations as a driver of the HIV epidemic in the Second National Strategic Framework (NSF 11) of 2010 – 2016.
- Inclusion of sexual minorities in the second Botswana Impact Assessment Survey
- The amendment of the Employment Act in 2010 to protect employees from unfair dismissal on the basis of sexual orientation or health status.
- The enactment of the Public Service Act, erasing non-discriminatory practices in relation to health status.
- The commitment by the Ministry of Health in 2010 to develop a MARPS Strategy
- The commitment by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency in 2010 to undertake a needs assessment to inform interventions targeting prisoners
- The tabling of a motion to enact an HIV Employment Private Member’s Bill in parliament in 2010.
- Access to antiretroviral drugs including mother to child transmission by refugees following collaborative advocacy with ARASA; Botswana Red Cross Society, Human Rights Watch; International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC); the Southern African Treatment Access Movement (SATAMO); the Steven Lewis Foundation; Pan African Treatment Access Movement (PATAM); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the University of Botswana.
- Favourable ground breaking court decisions that protected and entrenched the rights of people living with HIV, including such cases resulting in the awarding of compensation in invasion of privacy matters and unfair dismissal from the workplace on the basis of HIV status.
BONELA and her partners will thus celebrate these achievements throughout the year, with specific details to be communicated in due course.