The Director of the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Uyapo Ndadi, says that they are “shocked” by comments made by the Deputy Minister of Health, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, in regard to foreign prisoners who are HIV positive.
Matlhabaphiri was on Tuesday quoted by local newspapers as having said that HIV positive foreign prisoners “better die of AIDS than cost us”.
He was answering a question from Member of Parliament for South East, Odirile Motlhale, who had wanted to know why the government was not providing ARVs to foreign prisoners.
Ndadi said that , as a human rights organasation, they “find it baffling that a Health Minister can be so insensitive to the plight of HIV positive person in any setting, especially when the whole world is calling for human rights as the only approach to universal access to prevention, treatment care and support”.
Ndadi said that this issue brings to question the appointment of Botswana to the United Nations Human Rights Council if they can look on whilst “foreign prisoners are wasted away by HIV in their own prisons”.
He further warned that government is better off providing treatment to foreign prisoners because once they get TB, which is airborne disease, they would be in a position to infect Batswana inmates and government will end up treating whole prisons instead of an individual as many opportunistic infections are highly infectious.
A week before last, we carried a story in which BONELA Legal Officer, Dikeledi Dingake, was quoted saying that there were about six HIV positive foreign prisoners in Gaborone Prisons, some of whom being terminally ill. She further said that they did not have information in regards to the situation in other prisons around the country.
The government’s position on providing foreign prisoners with ARVs is that it is costly and it might only worsen the concerned prisoners situation after they have been released from jail to a country where there are no such facilities.