Recently I suggested a law to curb the spread of HIV in Botswana. I said people should be required to test at least every six months and that there should be a harsh law that will punish spouses in a marriage who infect their spouses with the virus. I also suggested that a rapist who infects his victims should be severely punished. Lots of comments came from all corners with some supporting my suggestions while others thought I was day dreaming . Well, what can I say, I was just thinking aloud, I mean after all this is a democratic country (mmualebe o bua la gagwwe).
You know certain laws need to be reviewed because I just think that preaching about individuals privacy and protection while the same individuals are infecting others with a deadly disease is just pathetic. That’s my story and I stick to it….
Some of the people who responded are the good people from f BONELA and this is what they had to say.
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) wishes to respond to an article published in The Voice newspaper dated Friday 1st April 2011 under the column “Youth Affair” by Tshepo Sepora. Through the column, Tshepo Sepora raised and recommended compulsory testing and criminalisation of HIV Transmission.
BONELA wishes to state the following:
Firstly, compulsory testing infringes the individual’s right to voluntary counselling and testing which is now a best practice in promulgating safe sex and encouraging acceptance of one’s status and positive living thereafter.
As a nation, we have made great strides as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s people were shunned for their HIV status, resulting in them being denied employment and termination of employment based on actual or perceived HIV status. The adverse impact of this is denial, and lack of motivation to know one’s status and consequently the continued, unabated transmission of HIV.
In addition, testing comes as a packaged service that is always and should always be accompanied by pre and post test counselling and most importantly informed consent as well as upholding confidentiality.
The kind of testing advanced by Sepora does not in any way change behaviour and this is the crux of addressing HIV. Such strategies as abstinence, being faithful and condomising (ABC) have clearly not worked as they have taken out the human aspect. Addressing HIV holistically is not going to work, without taking into account the unit of analysis, which is the human being out of the picture. In this regard, what needs to be done is to understand human nature and thereafter propose evidence-based interventions, not run-of-the –mill solutions which have long since been proven unworkable.
The issue of criminalisation of HIV transmission has clearly been approached with caution by the Government of Botswana. As BONELA, we believe that this further entrenches stigma and discrimination, the drivers of HIV transmission, and is a deterrent for the general public to know their status and act responsibly.
In conclusion, BONELA urges all stakeholders to continue educating our nation to influence behaviour change.