Fight COVID-19, Don’t Forget HIV – BONU

Covid workers wearing PPEs at Tlokweng Border PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Covid workers wearing PPEs at Tlokweng Border PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

As the world and Botswana commemorated World AIDS Day last week, Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has called on government and other stakeholders not to forget other pandemics while focussing on COVID-19.

The union said they have noted that attention and resources have been shifted to COVID-19 affecting several services including those of HIV/AIDS.

“BONU has noted with concern the realisation that a lot of attention and resources have been shifted to the COVID-19 fight, and this has affected a lot of services including HIV services. This has grossly undermined the progress we have made as a country and threatened our efforts to have an HIV-free society. BONU urges and believes that if all stakeholders can all come to the party, especially the government, epidemics/pandemics like HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, malaria etc can be defeated,” BONU deputy secretary-general, Professional Affairs Kenosi Mogorosi said.

“However, that can only be realised if civil societies and workers representative organisations are taken seriously and involved in every move or planning that the government embarks on. BONU, therefore, calls upon everyone involved to stand up and fight all these inequalities by advocacy. We must use all other means including lobbying our legislators and lawmakers so that we can win the war against all this.”

Mogorosi added the transformative approach needed to end AIDS will also protect the world against future pandemics. He said other measures needed to tackle inequalities include; community-led and people-centred infrastructure; equitable access to medicines, vaccines and health technologies and gender mainstreaming.

The theme for 2021 World AIDS Day was ‘End Inequalities, End AIDS and End Pandemics’. Mogorosi said BONU strongly believe and resonate well with the theme, as it is very much relevant.

He said this is so because as a professional union, they represent nurses, who are the leading frontline workers facing every pandemic that comes. He said they are more affected because they have to deal with the burden of HIV/AIDS as well as the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

“However, we view this as a cause for concern because the pandemic has totally depleted the human resource, in the process affecting healthcare workers with nurses (who form more than 60% of the healthcare workforce) bearing the brunt even more,” he said.

“Ultimately, the healthcare workforce suffers from work-related stress and burnout, rendering healthcare services like HIV/AIDS services inaccessible (frontliners are quarantined, isolated, dead etc) and with the community receiving substandard services. BONU as a member-centred organisation will always stand up for its membership welfare including the community as we believe in justice and equality, and we are proud that such themes are often brought up and will help address all other issues left behind in our policies.”

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