Friday, December 3, 2021

Controversial Health Bill goes to court

Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS-BONELA Director, Uyapo Ndadi, has confirmed that they will take government to court over the passing of the controversial Bill by Parliament on Friday.

The passing of the Bill into law, among other things, means that HIV testing is soon to become compulsory as Members of Parliament have rejected proposed amendments to the controversial Bill currently before parliament. The amendments were tabled by some MPs who wanted some clauses removed from the Bill, among them the empowerment of medical practitioners to force clients to undergo HIV tests without their consent.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Ndadi said that taking the government to court is the only available option.

“We are prepared. We are just waiting for it to come into force and then we will be going to court,” he said.

Ndadi described the passing of the Bill into law as inhuman and degrading, saying people will be forced to undergo HIV testing and when they refuse they will be taken to court. He said such a practice is a violation of piracy and unconstitutional because people’s privacy is entrenched in the Constitution.

Ndadi said the Bill also compromises preventive measures because one can test negative while in a window period or in cases where an individual is receiving treatment and the disease is undetectable.

“Prevention interventions have been applying to all people, but now as a result of this law, they will only apply to HIV positive people. HIV negative individuals don’t have the duty to protect themselves. That is discriminatory because we believe we are all supposed to protect ourselves from HIV,” said Ndadi.

The Bill also says when one removes his or her tooth, he or she should undergo HIV testing, “We are wondering if there is shortage of gloves in health facilities,” said Ndadi.

“Batswana will go underground and not access health facilities. Ministers and some Parliamentarians were saying they will instead go to TB Joshua, one wonders if they were serious when debating this Bill,” he said.

According to BONELA director, the law will also place women at the receiving end because they access health facilities when they give birth. He added that the law is likely to fuel domestic violence as men will be blaming their partners and want them to take responsibility for HIV infection or even exposing the status of the other partner to the third party.

“We are blacklisting those who are HIV positive and degrading them by isolating them only because they are HIV positive, not because they are suffering from Ebola,” he said. Ndadi argued that the relationship between doctors and patients would be compromised, adding that doctors will be forced to go against their professional ethics.

Former Health Minister and now Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa, Sheila Tlou, has also described the passing of the controversial Health Bill by parliament as regressive.

Responding to a post addressed to her on Facebook by Ndadi, she said the NGO has educated and lobbied Botswana MPs and (BDP) rejected amendments aimed at saving Batswana from compulsory HIV testing and disclosure of their status to 3rd parties without their consent, Tlou said the passing of the Bill into law is that Botswana is regressing when it comes to eliminating stigma and discrimination.

“Well. We did our best and the rest we can leave to Batswana to protect and promote their Human Rights,” she said.

She said while other nations were coming up with progressive ways of fighting the HIV scourge, Botswana is now doing the opposite.

“ … The very Joyce Banda who was visiting would be shocked to hear of this bill!! I am waiting for the day a Botswana child sues its parent (s) for having infected them in utero (sic). This bill allows it.” said Tlou.

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