FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) has commended government’s move to provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to non-citizens.
The Government of Botswana recently took a decision to start offering free ARV therapy to non-citizens. An estimated 30,000 foreigners living in Botswana are HIV positive.
Even though BONELA applauds the government’s move to give ARVs to foreigners, the association’s legal and advocacy officer, Tebogo Gareitsanye told The Monitor that there is, however, a need to develop guidelines that will facilitate implementation of the policy decision.
Gareitsanye added that the government must outline how it will manage mobility of VISA Information System (VIS) retention for both documented and undocumented foreigners. She also indicated that BONELA advocates for provision of the ART therapy to all foreigners including the illegal and undocumented.
“A person’s legal status should not limit the right to universal access to health.”She highlighted that a cost benefit analysis conducted indicated that provision of ARVs to foreigners is not only a prevention intervention, but it also makes economic sense.
Gareitsanye said that ensuring that all people who need ARVs have access to the treatment would reduce transmission rates hence minimising or maintaining the cost of providing ARVs.
She also said it has been acknowledged through research that treatment is prevention; therefore in order to reach the 2030 targets of ending the HIV epidemic amongst all people living in Botswana, including foreigners, should have equitable access to ARVs.
She further said the spread of HIV transcends societal construct of difference or ‘otherness’, affecting all people irrespective of their race, gender, sexual orientation, colour or nationality.
She revealed that foreigners living in Botswana have the right to receive all health services including HIV prevention, care, treatment and support.
“For a country to truly make headway in prevention, treatment, care and support, no one should be left behind. It is this very fact that has driven BONELA’s advocacy on the provision of ARVs for non-citizens,” she said.
In 2015, BONELA took the government to court and won on appeal where the court compelled the Botswana Prison Service to provide ARV to all prisoners as a basic human right protected by the Prisons Act and Prison Regulations.