Botswana to address HIV/AIDS legal issues, human rights

FIghting stigma and discimination
Through support from UNDP and the UN’s interagency programme on HIVAIDS (UNAIDS), the government has commissioned studies on HIV in key populations.

Botswana has embarked on a process aimed at generating evidence to inform the HIV policy and related legal reviews that would address the human rights aspects of the pandemic in a country with the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world.

Highlights

  • Botswana has finally embarked in a process aimed at generating evidence to inform the HIV policy and related legal reviews.
  • Botswana’s constitution, common law and statutory law all contain provisions prohibiting discrimination in general.
  • Other efforts include engagements through distinguished personas like the country’s former President Gontebanye Festus Mogae.

Through support from UNDP and the UN’s interagency programme on HIVAIDS (UNAIDS), the government has commissioned studies on HIV in key population. The studies will focus on HIV/AIDS in prison population, Mapping of Most at Risk Populations (MARP) and a survey on Stigma Index. Results of these studies will be used to generate evidence that will inform policy and legal reviews in the country.

Botswana’s constitution, common law and statutory law all contain provisions prohibiting discrimination in general. The National Framework on HIV and AIDS recognises the need to address all forms of stigma and discrimination that ‘’collude to constrain the coverage and effectiveness of HIV and AIDS interventions and increase the vulnerabilities of particular groups in society”.

In response to recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Botswana is now making serious efforts to address the identified key human rights and legal issues relating to HIV, public health and development.

UNDP and UNAIDS are jointly supporting a national survey on stigma and discrimination of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs). The expected outcomes from the survey include; attaining evidence on stigma and discrimination among PLHWA and developing a Stigma Index; sensitizing PLHWA and the general population on the nature of stigma and discriminatory practices among PLHWA in Botswana; and to inform planning for the national HIV response particularly on efforts addressing human rights issues. The survey outcomes may have implications for among others; judicial legislators’ sensitization and strengthening of legal and policy reforms to enhance conformity and realization of universal access to justice.

Other efforts include engagements through distinguished personas like the country’s former President Gontebanye Festus Mogae in an attempt to explore ways of influencing strengthened political will to reform policy and change mind sets towards adoption of internationally acceptable measures within the country context.

Legal and justice systems have the potential to play constructive roles in responding to HIV, by respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. In the case of Botswana, it is hoped that the same significant legal achievements that have been made to protect human rights could be made in enforcing the existing legal instruments and attaining further policy reforms for universal access to human rights and notable impact on reduction of HIV transmission.

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