An undisclosed number of HIV positive foreigners in Botswana prisons has been left to die because the government will not give them life-saving ARV medication.
BONELA legal officer, Dikeledi Dingake, told the Telegraph that, so far, they have six cases of HIV positive foreign prisoners, some of them terminally ill and left to die.
Dingake says the number is believed to be much higher because the six cases they have on record are all from the Gaborone prison.
“We only have information about prisoners in Gaborone prisons; we do not know the situation in other prisons around the country. It could be worse than what we already know,” she said.
One of the terminally ill prisoners is reported to be so ill that he cannot walk.
Dingake said they do not have information from other prisons around the country because access is difficult.
She explained that they had access to the Gaborone prisons after some inmates first made contact with BONELA.
Dingake told The Telegraph that BONELA is currently preparing to file a case against the Ministry of Health, charging that the treatement against foreigners doing time in Botswana prisons is “inhuman, degrading and discriminatory”.
She explained that all other foreigners in Botswana prisons are given medical treatement such as medication for diabetes, but those who are HIV positive are denied ARV therapy. She says by denying the prisoners treatement, government was condemning them to death because, as prisoners, they are helpless to try other means of accessing the life saving therapy.
Dingake says the situation exposes citizen prisoners to the disease as some prisoners have confessed to sodomy in local prisons.
A recent study has revealed that AIDS patients who are on ARV therapy are less likely to infect their sexual partners than those who are not on medication. She told the Telegraph that during one of their few visits, a foreign prisoner who is HIV positive admitted to have made a tattoo on his arm with an instrument he shared with other prisoners.
Former Minister of Defence and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, has in the past confirmed that there were HIV positive prisoners and promised that the government was looking into the possibility of providing them with ARVs.