LEGABIBO lauds gov't for free anti-retroviral therapy

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The Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) says it welcomes government’s decision to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to everyone without discrimination.

A press release from LEGABIBO’s media advocacy and communications officer Matlhogonolo Samsam notes that the recent statement from the President Mokgweetsi Masisi during his courtesy call from The Champions for AIDS Free Generation indicated that Botswana would continue to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to everyone without discrimination. 

“To civil society working on enabling access to these lifesaving medicines, this statement was understood to mean that ART will be made available to everyone including non-citizens. Human rights organizations have for some time now highlighted this gap in Botswana’s efforts to enable universal access to anti-retroviral therapy, the need to be inclusive,” she noted. 

LEGABIBO further applauded the government’s decision to provide free ART to foreigners saying that the move is in line with global HIV strategic frameworks such as UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals. Hence fulfills the commitments to leave no one behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Samsam added that her organization hopes that verbal statement would be translated into action that would be clearly defined in the form of policy to enforce commitment, assign roles, and enshrine government plans to provide non-discriminatory access. 

She also noted that Botswana was already grappling with gaps between policy and reality explaining that the National Science Foundation (NSF) III committed to provision of HIV services to key populations (KPs) while the reality on the ground in healthcare facilities is not ready to enable to enable access. Such as burden she stated was left to civil society organizations (CSOs).

“While LEGABIBO appreciates His Excellency’s acknowledgement of the shortfalls in the country’s health system, it is vital that such statement be backed up by the policy and law because if not, depending on who is in power and what their interests are, the statement becomes meaningless. Subsequently civil society which has no resource will be left to fill this gap,” they stated.

Samsam pointed out that in their experience in implementing key populations programming, there was often no link between high-level strategic policy decisions and practice. She stated that they foresee a situation where non-citizens will be turned down and denied access because the commitment has not trickled down to people who actually provide the service.

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