Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Gov’t stops US funding for HIV interventions targeting gays

The Botswana government has intervened to stop an initiative by the United States government to fund HIV-AIDS interventions targeted at same sex partners. Sunday Standard can reveal that the Ministry of Health stepped in at the eleventh hour to halt a call for proposals, issued by the US government under its Presidents’ Emergency fund for HIV and AIDS(PEFPAR), for HIV-AIDS intervention initiatives for same sex partners, on the grounds that the its target groups are classified as unlawful in Botswana.

This comes hardly a week before the lapse of the deadline for submission of the proposals, which was set at March 16th.

However the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Koloatamo Malefho said that government only intervened to suggest that focus should be on prevention, and to address areas that have already been targeted for interventions.

For her part, Monicah Tselaakgosi, Programs Planning Manager at the National Aids Coordinating Agency, said that they do not discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation.

She added that research on HIV-AIDS among same sex partners was based on a very small sample, such that its findings do not conclusively reflect the general state of the whole population.
“Thus, the review of the call for proposal also means reexamining the extent to which it should be a priority,” said Tselaakgosi.

The Director of Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV-AIDS, Uyapo Ndadi said that Botswana’s decision to block the funding is a reversal of the gains that were made in the fight against HIV-AIDS.

BONELA recently revealed the findings of their private investigations into the extent of HIV-AIDS prevalence on same sex partners. They had hoped that more funding from the US would help them intensify their research.

“This is another opportunity gone down the drain. It is a case of serious denials on the part of government” he said.

Information passed to Sunday Standard indicates that BONELA, Population Services International (PSI) and Family Health International (FHI) had entered into a tripartite collaboration arrangement, through which they would pool the relevant expertise to maximize the benefits of the US funding.

The project would in the end increase access to high quality HIV prevention, care and treatment services for men who have sex with men (MSM) and their partners.

It consisted of two components, implementing a needs assessment in six identified urban areas and designing and conducting a needs-based and targeted HIV prevention intervention aimed at reaching MSM, with prevention messages.

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