12 June 2014
Principal state counsel David Moloise has argued that it is in the public interest that government refuses to provide foreign prisoners with anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment.
Two foreign prisoners, Dickson Tapela and Mbuso Piye who are HIV positive are challenging the Botswana government’s decision to deny ARV treatment to foreign prisoners living with HIV as unlawful and unconstitutional. In particular they argue that it denies the prisoners’ the right to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, and discrimination and equality.
But Moloise said in court on Tuesday that government could not afford to provide such treatment. “This is purely on public interest grounds. If more money comes in the future and when the cost of ARV goes down, the state may consider,” he said.
The government attorney had earlier argued that government is not depriving the prisoners of their lives as argued by Advocate Gilbert Marcus representing the applicants together with Tshiamo Rantao. Marcus had argued that by refusing to provide foreign prisoners with the life-saving treatment, government is depriving them of a right to life as provided for in the Botswana constitution. But not in Moloise’s thinking. He argued that the applicants’ deprivation of life occurred the day they contracted HIV.
“Our refusal will not change the status quo because deprivation always existed,” he noted, adding that there is no known cure for AIDS and that the certainty already existed. High Court judge Bengbame Sechele has reserved judgment to a later date.