The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has vehemently denied reports that HIV/Aids testing is a pre-requisite in being awarded scholarships to study at tertiary institutions abroad.
The Ministry endured a lot of criticism from various organisations and the general public, following media reports that were suggesting that this procedure was in place.
“The organization was dismayed at this development which will compound the already high levels of stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV, identified in Botswana’s Second National Strategic Framework as one of the drivers of HIV transmission,” said Uyapo Ndadi, the Executive Director of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA). “This is the time for the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) to stand up and intervene as clearly the left hand of government is unaware of what the right hand is doing.”
Ndadi added cited countries like China and the United States of America which have annulled legislation that prohibited HIV positive people from entering their countries as a means of reducing stigma against them.
However, the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, rubbished the claims by the media and stated that an HIV Aids Test is only mandatory if it is a requirement from the country which the student is being sponsored to go.
“The Ministry would also like to make it clear to the public that under no circumstance will government sponsorship be awarded along discriminatory rules,” said a press release from her Ministry. “Government sponsorship is awarded on merit to citizen applicants irrespective of their health status.”
The press release clarifies the conditions under which students might have to get tested.
“The HIV/AIDS test as part of the requirements for external Scholarships is set by some scholarship donors as a pre-requisite condition. This requirement would normally constitute part of the general medical examination as evidence for physical and mental fitness. Medical Health history requires declaration that applicants have no health impairment which is of potential risk with probability of negative impact on the academic performance of the student or transmission to other citizens.”
Students pursuing studies in the medical fraternity and those going to countries which require people to test before getting visas will be tested for HIV/Aids prior to being awarded such a scholarship.