Batswana this week spoke out against the introduction of cost sharing on ARVs and denied allegations that they were indiscriminately discarding ARV pills everywhere and invariably disregarding doctors’ instructions because they were receiving them free from the government.
Expressing their concerns before a parliamentary committee aimed at soliciting views of locals across the country over the proposed public Health Act to incorporate legislation on HIV/AIDS, Palapye and Gaborone North participants opposed the introduction of ARV treatment fees saying the move would only serve to plunge the nation in a worse situation.
Participants informed the committee, led by Shoshong MP, Duke Lefhoko, that most Batswana were poor and unemployed and, as such, could not afford to pay the fees.
“It would be a defiance of logic to introduce ARV treatment fees.
Most Batswana are poor and unemployed and as such would not be able to pay,” pleaded Palapye resident, Gobotsamang Olathile Seema. “The government would be digging graves for its people should implementation be effected.”
Seema told the committee that currently Batswana were shy to obtain free ARV drugs from the hospitals, adding that such an introduction would culminate into an insurmountable health crisis. He advised the government to continue offering free ARVs to Batswana to save them from depletion.
Earlier, talking to the participants, Lefhoko said the country was incurring heavy expenses in buying and distributing ARVs.
Despite such heavy expenses, he said, allegations were rife that people were not only discarding the life saving and expensive drugs everywhere but were also disobeying doctors’ prescriptions.
He said that people tend to be serious and cautious with their lives and medication when they paid for them.
Palapye residents, however, did not badge but insisted that the government continue providing free ARV pills since the government was still having difficulties with the newly introduced school fees.
Gaborone North participants, like their Palapye counterparts, expressed fears ARV fees would disadvantage the poor and the unemployed Batswana, reminding the committee that the poor and unemployed were the most vulnerable to the disease.
The BONELA delegation, led by Uyapo Ndadi, asserted that it was every person’s constitutional right to access treatment and medical services without any hindrance.
On whether medical aid should provide HIV/AIDS cover, participants charged that the current exclusion by private health institution to cater for the patients was complete discrimination.
They informed the committee that HIV/AIDS should be treated like any other disease and thus the disease be included in medical aid.
They pleaded with the government to fast track an overarching public health provision that would provide medical aid cover for HIV/AIDS.
Currently, few private health institution offer treatment to HIV/AIDS patients through medical aid.
They also told the committee that those afflicted with the illness should not be denied opportunities for education, bank loans, insurance and other services.
They lambasted the government for not coming up with laws to protect HIV positive citizens adding that South-African insurance companies doing business locally were taking advantage of the absence of laws to deny Batswana loans, pointing out that in South Africa, HIV positive people had access to insurances loans.
The committee, which completed its task on Wednesday, comprised of Gaborone North MP, Keletso Rakhudu, Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, and Gaborone South East North MP, Olebile Gaborone. The committee traversed the northern parts of Botswana whilst the other traversed the southern part to solicit the views of Batswana on the Public Health Act that was drafted in the early years of independence.