18th March 2014: In an important legal victory in Botswana, the country’s High Court has ordered the government to provide HIV treatment to all non-citizen prisoners.
Prior to the court order, the government supplied non-citizen prisoners with treatment for opportunistic infections but not for HIV, leading to a significant deterioration in their health. Non-citizen prisoners were expected to pay for HIV treatment themselves. The Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) sued the government to secure treatment, along with two foreign prisoners living with HIV. They were assisted in the case by SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
The two prisoners and BONELA argued that the denial of critical medical treatment to non-citizen prisoners violated their fundamental rights, which were guaranteed under Botswana’s Constitution. In addition the prisoners used current medical evidence to show that not only would their lives be at risk without HIV treatment, but that other prisoners would also be at greater risk of contracting HIV and other opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis.
Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said, “The order will have to be immediately implemented by government and will ensure that the government meets its obligations under the Botswana Constitution and under international and regional law. More importantly, it shows that the government has no legitimate justification for putting prisoners’ lives at serious risk by denying them HIV treatment.”
Full press release from SALC website: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2014/03/18/news-release-botswana-government-ordered-to-provide-hiv-treatment-to-non-citizen-prisoners/
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