After intense shouting, shoving and jostling, the Botswana Network of Ethics and Law on HIV and AIDS (BONELA) extracted permission from the National Aids Council meeting to present findings on a study conducted to determine the contribution of multi-concurrent relationships in the spread of HIV, especially among homosexuals.
The National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) last year refused to accord BONELA an opportunity to present its findings. BONELA director Uyapo Ndadi said last week that they are very pleased to have been given the opportunity, despite the fact that they would have liked to bring NACA on board earlier.
NACA coordinator Batho Molomo said at the time that the decision to prevent BONELA from presenting its paper was taken after the attorney general advised that it would prejudice a case that was then before the courts. In the matter an organization known as Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) had filed a notice of intention to institute civil action against government.
LEGABIBO’s case emanated from the Registrar of Societies’ decision to deny them registration on the basis that it would be tantamount to recognizing homosexuals, in violation of section 164 of the constitution.
“Our in research has revealed that there is compelling evidence that despite genuine efforts and programs aimed at combating the spread of HIV, there are evident cracks that reverse the gains that we have made” said Ndadi.
In a previous statement on World Aids Day, Molomo said that it is inexplicable why a considerable number of Batswana continue to be infected despite easy access to HIV information, high rates of condom use and delayed sex debut.
BONELA’s research, which was based on a sample of 117 self identified men who admitted to having sex with other men, revealed an HIV prevalence rate of 18.6%.
Although the size of the sample was too small to draw any general conclusions from it seemed to suggest that it important that policy makers are exposed to the angle that tends to be in obscurity, such that they formulate informed initiatives and interventions to prevent more infections.
A comparative analysis of the Botswana Aids Impact Survey of 2004 to that of 2008 shows an increase in prevalence rate from 17.1% to 17.6%. It is on that basis that BONELA argues that there are people who are left out because of non-inclusive intervention programs.
“For as long as such people are not given factual and situation specific information on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-Aids, all efforts will be in vain,” warned Ndadi.
“Even though the law makes it illegal for people of same sex to engage in sex together, let’s just hear what they have to say,” said Chairperson of the NAC, former President of Botswana Festus Mogae.
However, the presentation was the deferred to the next meeting of the Council which is scheduled for May 2010.