The court of appeal has upheld a ruling that foreign prisoners should receive free treatment for HIV/Aids, rights lawyers say.
Prior to the ruling, foreign inmates were forced to pay for their medication, unlike native inmates. A case on the matter was opened by two HIV-positive prisoners challenging the policy alongside figures from the United Nations (UN) which estimate that approximately 25 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV-positive in the landlocked African country. A year ago the High Court ruled in favour of the two prisoners and the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/Aids (Bonela), which backed their case.
But the state appealed against the decision.
According to the legal rights group Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the appeal court ordered that the treatment for foreign prisoners begin immediately and that free HIV testing also be offered.
“The judgment marks a decisive victory for public health in Botswana and the region. We look forward to the government taking immediate steps to roll out treatment to those prisoners falling within the treatment gap,” Bonela’s Phazha Molebatsi said in a statement.
Foreign prisoners made up more than 14% of Botswana’s prison population in 2013, the International Centre for Prison Studies says. Southern Africa is often considered an epicenter of the world’s HIV epidemic. Along with East Africa, says the U.N.’s children’s fund, these two regions are home to half of the world’s HIV-positive population — although this part of the world only comprises 5 percent of the global population.