Sunday, September 27, 2020

Botswana segregates HIV patients seeking medication

Government has been publicly disgracing people living with HIV/AIDS at public health institutions using an outdated system intended to make access to Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication easier- Parliament has learnt.

Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Setlhomo Lelatisitswe admitted that indeed there is segregation in hospitals and clinics towards patients collecting their ARV medication.

In Botswana HIV/AIDS patients collect or separately queue from other patients when collecting their medication or seeking assistance and this has raised concerns from Member of Parliament (MP) for Kanye North Thapelo Letsholo over the dignity of patients as well as possible rise in cases of stigmatisation.

Lelatitswe said: “The issue raised by my fellow MP has some truth to it. HIV/AIDS patients who take ARV medication in some of our hospitals and clinics are still segregated and they take their medication from a standalone collection counter. When the HIV/AIDS scourge first broke out we received assistance from outside sources and it was necessary that it be in a standalone collection counter. The segregation was intended to allow for the patients to have easy access to their medication and not expose them.”

“Today we are to mix all our patients so that they collect medication from the same pharmacy points in clinics and hospitals. As a way of reducing the stigma related to this virus, we have made efforts to ensure our patients are integrated when seeking assistance at our institutions and nobody`s rights are infringed upon. However, it is a challenge in most of our institutions because of a lack of space and this results in patients being segregated,” the minister shared.

MP Letsholo wanted to know if the ministry is aware that some health facilities segregate people living with HIV/AIDS by offering them counselling services and dispensing of medication, in separate facilities and spaces. If so to state why this is the case and when will it be people living with HIV/AIDS.

“It is our intention as the ministry to make sure people living with HIV/AIDS privacy is not infringed upon by having them seek alongside the other patients collectively and we have ensure such clinics and hospitals like that are non-existent,” junior minister Lelatisitswe said.

Since the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country a lot has transpired from the public education campaigns to people coming forth publicly, to declare their status and the junior highlighted that this showed a lot of people were no longer relying on myths to tackle HIV/AIDS issues.

When quizzed on what caused the delay in abolishing this practice of segregating patients, junior minister Lelatisitswe said: “HIV/AIDS pandemic found us unprepared as a country, so we had to depend on help from countries like United States of America and the segregation was intended to allow easy and quick access for the HIV/AIDS patients. Nowadays as a country we are able to take care of these patients and we know that their medication is a rare kind.”

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.