Assistant Minister of Health, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, has stated that his office is shocked that the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS is campaigning against the proposed Public Health Bill when the organization never raised any concerns during their discussions on the Bill.
Last Week UNAIDS deputy director Jan Beagle wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly that the controversial law may deter people from seeking HIV services.
According to UNAIDS the possibility of compulsory testing of HIV/AIDS for patients, disclosure of person’s status by medical practitioner and isolation of people living with HIV/AIDS in certain circumstances makes the Bill a health hazard.
“We are very much surprised about the letter from UNAIDS because last week we had a meeting with representatives from World Health Organisation(WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) and we went through all the relevant provisions of the Bill,” said Matlhabaphiri in an interview with The Telegraph.
He said that officials from his ministry even met UNAIDS officials to discuss the draft Bill and UNAIDS did not have any misgivings about the Bill.
“If there was an afterthought they should have come back to the ministry to solicit our views,” he argued.
According to the minister, although UNAIDS fault the ministry for failing to consult and failing to take into considerations international HIV/AIDS regulations, the draft Bill is nothing of that sort because it complies with the UN’s regulations on HIV/AIDS.
“International regulations say we should allow doctors to examine patients and that is what is provided for in the Bill..,”said Matlhabaphiri.
Matlhabaphiri also said that the International regulations make it clear that people must consent before they can undergo HIV test.
Matlhabaphiri said that since the other UN agencies had distanced themselves from the contents of the letter, it was clear the letter was not a UNAIDS position but an individual position.
“This letter is an idea of an individual. We used the International AIDS regulations to guide us when drafting the Bill…the International AIDS regulations are not in line with what the coordinator is saying,” he stated.
He said the Bill could not be expected to make provisions to cover prisoners, prostitutes and others who might be vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because it is solely concerned with regulating public health.
“Those have got nothing to do with public health, laws against prostitution and remand of prisoners are not under the ministry of Health…,”he said.
The minister also pointed out that the Bill will not be scrapped because it is clearly in line with international regulations on HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile Speaker of the National Assembly Margaret Nasha has stated that parliament had decided to defer the Bill’s debate to next year’s session.