Foreign Prisoners Sue Botswana Gov’t Over HIV Treatment

Foreign Prisoners Sue Botswana Gov’t Over HIV Treatment

Two foreign prisoners in Botswana have sued the Botswanan government for charging non-citizen inmates for HIV treatment, while providing free service to its citizens, a report said.

It said that the prisoners, under the assistance of local nongovernmental organization, the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV (BONELA), filed a case in the High Court on Tuesday, seeking an order to mandate the government to provide non-citizen prisoners free HIV treatment.

The Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, reports that Botswana implements a national free HIV treatment and prisoners who are Botswanan citizens receive free treatment, while non-citizen prisoners pay for the treatment.

It, however, reports that the country provides foreign prisoners with treatment for opportunistic infections.

Cindy Kelemi, the Executive Director of BONELA, which filed a supporting affidavit in the case, said it was irrational and counter-productive to refuse to treat HIV foreign prisoners.

He said the current policy must be changed because it would put the health of other prisoners at risk.

Kelemi said there was likelihood that non-citizen prisoners with HIV would have higher viral loads and would therefore be more infectious to others.

He argued that without HIV treatment, not only would the prisoners’ lives be at risk, but based on the current medical evidence, it would also place other prisoners at risk of HIV and other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis.

Priti Patel, the Deputy Director, Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC), which was assisting in the case, said the denial of life-saving treatment to prisoners on the basis of their citizenship was an infringement on their fundamental rights.

The denial is also against the rights guaranteed under the Botswana Constitution and by Botswana’s legal obligations under international and regional law.

Xinhua reports that The High Court would hear the arguments in the matter this month.


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