The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) is calling on HIV-positive foreign prisoners in Botswana also in need of ARV treatment to come forward for assistance, executive director Cindy Kelemi said this week.
Kelemi explained that the decision comes after the High Court declared the government’s policy of refusing ARVs to foreign prisoners irrational, unlawful and unconstitutional. It was last August when the court ordered the government to immediately provide all foreign prisoners who meet the treatment criteria with ARVs at state expense.
“Even though the Attorney General (AG) has appealed the decision, in the interim the High Court has refused a stay on the judgment’s execution.
“This means that the August 2014 order is enforceable until it is overturned by the Court of Appeal decision, if at all.
“This is not only a matter of life and death. Government, and all persons involved in the physical care of prisoners and persons in detention in Botswana are obliged by order of court to provide ARVs to non-citizen prisoners who meet the treatment criteria,” said Kelemi.
However, Kelemi explained that BONELA’s efforts to engage the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security and the Prisons department on non-compliance have so far been futile.
She therefore called on prisoners in need of treatment or their families to contact BONELA for assistance.
“We call on families and relatives of affected prisoners to assist because prisons are a closed environment and it is difficult to determine how many people are falling within this treatment gap.
“We wish to gather the information of persons in need of care so that we can assess whether we are able to assist them legally to access care and to monitor whether the government is complying with the law,” she said.
Kelemi also promised that they would undertake to treat all information given to BONELA with the utmost confidentiality.