28 October 2013
MINISTRY OF HEALTH ACTS IN BAD FAITH
1. The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) condemns, in the strongest possible terms the punitive approach by government to address issues affecting key populations.
2. We celebrated when government undertook the study to estimate the incidence and prevalence of HIV infection among female sex workers (FSW), men who have sex with other men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID); measure the prevalence of syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia, among FSW, MSM and PWID; and estimate the size of two populations namely FSW, and MSM in three districts of Botswana. We accordingly collaborated with nested organisations and mobilised our members in the sex work and men who have sex with other men community to take part in the survey in the belief that the government will use the findings to create an inclusive and accommodative environment.
3. The Botswana government has now done what is totally unexpected and deviated from the study findings by taking punitive, discriminatory, homophobic and xenophobic measures. That is unethical! BONELA is of the view that she was used to sell the rights of these groups.
4. Furthermore; the Botswana National Strategic Framework II on HIV and AIDS (NSF II), has identified stigma and discrimination as one of the key drivers of HIV so it is disheartening that while we are making efforts in health interventions and evidence based programming (research), such developments by the Ministry of Health and NACA derail our initiatives of ensuring non-discrimination in access to social services by all. BONELA and partners condemn this as a total disregard of human rights.
5. It is our belief that doing this will reverse the gains made thus far as key populations will go further into hiding, making access and utility to health services impossible.
6. The draft Strategies to Address Key Populations document is also sending inconsistent messages because while it promises to ‘avail’ services to FSW, MSM and PWID through the Ministry of Health and NACA to reduce stigma, it further states that an agreement was reached with law enforcers (Police & Immigration) to arrest them, deport and evoke permits-even availing themselves over weekends.
7. The said strategy also fails to make linkages between health, social and economic factors in order to mitigate the effects of socio-economic status on HIV, and ignoring this has proved to be catastrophic elsewhere in the world.
8. Lastly; we trust that our government will retreat and abandon this strategy.
For more information contact BONELA on 3932516.