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Media Advisory: High Court to Decide Whether Foreign Prisoners Get HIV Treatment

By 9 June 2014January 22nd, 2023Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Prison Reform3 min read

Gaborone–On Tuesday 10 June, the Botswana High Court will hear argument in a case challenging the government’s refusal to provide anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to foreign prisoners.

“Prisoners, particularly foreign prisoners, are a vulnerable group who usually have no means to access life-saving medication if the government does not supply it. These prisoners face great suffering and even death if the government continues to deny them ARVs,” said Cindy Kelemi, Executive Director of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), an applicant in the case.

“The decision to deny foreign prisoners ARVs is irrational as it not only puts their health at severe risk, but also places other prisoners at risk of illness, including tuberculosis and HIV,” said Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which is providing assistance in the matter.

What: The Botswana High Court will hear argument in Tapela and Others v the Attorney-General and Others, a case about the rights of foreign, HIV-positive prisoners to access HIV treatment.

Where: High Court, Gaborone, Botswana

When: 09:30am, Tuesday 10 June 2014

The twoforeign, HIV-positive prisoners and BONELA argue that the government’s policy of denying ARV treatment to foreign prisoners living with HIV is unlawful and unconstitutional. In particular, they argue that it denies the prisoners’ rights to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination and equality.They further argue that the policy is irrational in that it is more costly to treat opportunistic infections (OIs), as the government is currently doing, than to treat the prisoners’ HIV and places other prisoners at risk of OIs such as tuberculosis.

The court had previously ordered the government to provide foreign prisoners with ARV treatment as the government had failed to file opposing pleadings in the matter. This order was rescinded upon agreement of both parties and the government has now filed its arguments before the court.

The government raises a number of procedural complaints against the application and further argues that it is under no legal obligation to provide ARV treatment to foreign inmates.

The applicants are represented by Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC, Advocate Isabel Goodman and Tshiamo Rantao.

For more information:

Priti Patel, Deputy Director, SALC:    +27 11 587 5065 (o); +27 76 808 0505 (m);

Cindy Kelemi, Director, BONELA:    +267 393 2516 (o);  +267 72385054 (m);

For live updates from the court:          @Follow_SALC

For background on the case:



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