Botswana’s decision to deny foreign prisoners anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) is irrational and puts their health at severe risk, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre said yesterday.
Centre deputy director Priti Patel said the refusal to provide the drugs to HIV-positive prisoners placed other inmates at risk of contracting illnesses like tuberculosis and HIV.
The Botswana High Court will today hear arguments in a case challenging the policy.
The two foreign HIV-positive prisoners were expected to argue that the government’s policy was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Patel said the legal team would argue the policy denied the prisoners’ rights to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination and equality.
“They would further argue that the policy is irrational in that it is more costly to treat opportunistic infections, as the government is currently doing, than to treat the prisoners’ HIV and places other prisoners at risk of opportunistic infections,” said Patel.
The court had previously ordered that the Botswana government provide foreign prisoners with ARV treatment, as the government had failed to file opposing pleadings in the matter.
This order was later overturned upon agreement of both parties, which resulted in the government bringing the matter before the court again after filing opposing pleadings.