The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) conducted a two-day training workshop for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) community in Palapye last weekend.
The objectives of the training were to empower participants with information on various aspects such as stigma and discrimination, HIV and other STIs, tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections and the law to enhance individual advocacy and influence behaviour change so that there are no new infections among this target group.
This is according to BONELA's project officer for awareness-raising, Doris Kumbawa. In an interview with Mmegi Kumbawa said; "The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed community is one of BONELA's target groups identified as the most at risk population. There is need to tailor-make interventions to enhance access to prevention and support services with regard to HIV and AIDS."
She said that this is in recognition of the fact that Botswana's HIV/AIDS' programming will not be effective and will fail to reach the 2016 target of zero infection without the holistic approach that takes cognisance of human rights.
Kumbawa said that HIV prevention interventions thus need to reach all minority groups highlighting that gay men for example require lubricants when they perform some sexual acts, hence these should be included in prevention literature.
Kumbawa further asserted that in some cases, health care providers use the Penal Code: Section 164 (Cap 08: 01-67) to stigmatize LGBTI patients, thus impacting access to early detection and treatment of STIs/HIV as well as contact tracing.
She however said that they as BONELA, acknowledge that the Ministry of Health and NACA have started to be serious on issues affecting sexual minorities.
"On May, 26, NACA and the Ministry of Health presented a MARPS strategy which we hope will be effected soon to ensure all inclusive HIV/AIDS interventions in Botswana," she said.
A member of the lesbian community in Palapye who preferred to comment anonymously said she believed the workshop empowered her. "I learned a great deal about HIV/AIDS, TB, virology and where the law stands regarding gay people in the country," she said.