The lawyer for the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV, Dikeledi Dingake, says that they are dismayed by the Prisons Department’s action of denying them both access to their foreign national inmate clients, who are HIV positive, and denying the same prisoners access to psychologists.
In the first instance, she said that they, as well as psychologists, were denied access to five of their clients in Gaborone Central Prison where they wanted the psychologist to assess them.
Dingake said that the Officer In Charge sternly told them that he would not allow them.
Dingake said that she had then tried to explain the importance of their visit to the officer, only known to her as Thami, but the officer told her that his word was final on the matter.
Dingake said that on the second occasion, they wrote a letter to the Women’s Prison last month seeking access to a woman inmate client of theirs but their letter has still not been responded to.
Commenting on the issues, Dingake said that the action of the Prisons Department was very regrettable as the conduct amounts to a violation of prisoners’ basic right to medical assistance.
She also vowed that if this kind of conduct persists, they will take the necessary steps to see to it that they have access to their clients.
Asked about the developments of the case they intend to file in the High Court against the government’s decision of not availing ARV’s to foreign prisoners, Dingake said that they were about to file the case since they had to seek assistance from doctors with relevant skills in South Africa.
The Botswana government is reluctant to give ARV’s to foreign prisoners, saying it was expensive to do so.
They also say it would be tantamount to sentencing such prisoners to death since they might not have access to the medication upon return to their countries.
Early this year, Dingake revealed that some HIV positive foreign inmates were on their death beds in prisons as they do not have access to ARVs.
We could not get comment from the Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Wamorena Ramolefe, who was reported to be away.