MINISTRY OF HEALTH ACTS IN BAD FAITH

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.

Uyapo Ndadi
Executive Director
For more information contact BONELA on 3932516.