14 August 2012:

Last year the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration sought Parliament to adopt the Botswana National AIDS Policy on HIV and AIDS. BONELA then lobbied Members of Parliament to reject the policy calling it REGRESSIVE. The Minister withdrew the draft policy to enable for further consultations. The policy was this week tabled before Parliament. Having reviewed the Draft, thanks to one Member of Parliament who provided us with a copy of it, after NACA refused BONELA with a copy, we urge Members of Parliament to adopt it as most of our concerns raised last year have been dealt with.

Be that as it may, we hold the view that the following amendments and points of clarity need to be made before its adoption:

  1. The foreword by the Minister at page 3 indicates that the policy ‘takes cognisance of the fact that due to …sexual orientation, some Batswana are more vulnerable to the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS’ The policy contents, however, do not make reference to this issue and does not guide on how to deal with the challenges faced by sexual minorities. We therefore need to reconcile the foreword with the policy itself.
  2. At page 12, Article 4.4: does access to appropriate prevention methods inclusive of the prisons setting since we find citizens of Botswana therein? Are we also saying non-citizens should have access to prevention methods such as condoms?
  3. At page 12, Article 4.5.1: we assume, with delight, that the policy covers all women in need of PMTCT services irrespective of their nationality. Such that Batswana men who have children with non-citizens could benefit.
  4. At page 13, Article 5.2.1: and page 15, Article 6.1.1: these provisions exclude non-citizens and citizen couples, which therefore goes against the spirit of couple testing as espoused in Article 4.5.3 of the policy.
  5. At page 17, Article 7.1.1: why leave room for mandatory pre-employment HIV testing of non-citizens. Should Batswana aspiring to work abroad be subjected to the same test? Are we not creating a bad precedent hence the difficulty we have in condemning countries that test Batswana students abroad.
  6. At page 17, Article 7.1.2: could we spell out circumstances under which HIV testing maybe required. Leaving it open may result in the provision being abused. We are particularly happy that the army service men and women have been removed from the previous Draft that allowed for their HIV testing.
  7. At page 17, Article 7.1.3: we welcome the move to include access to insurance without discrimination or stigma. However, how does government intend to enforce this provision in the light of the fact that this policy is not legally binding on the private companies.

In conclusion, we trust that the Honourable Members of Parliament will fully engage with the Draft Policy and come up with the best policy possible to serve the nation and facilitate getting to zero AIDS deaths, zero HIV infection and zero discrimination by the year 2016.