22 August 2014
BOTSWANA’s government was instructed by the High Court in Gaborone on Friday to provide and pay for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV-positive foreign prisoners.
The court held that the denial of ARV treatment to foreign prisoners violated Botswana’s constitutional rights. Botswana has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection and prisoners who are citizens of the country receive free HIV treatment. Prisoners who are not citizens have hitherto had to pay for the treatment.
The challenge was launched by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre with the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS and two HIV-positive foreign prisoners.
Priti Patel, the centre’s deputy director, said that the state had failed to prove its claim that it could not afford to provide ARV treatment to foreign prisoners.
“If you are going to argue cost, you have to show evidence of that,” she said.
In its ruling the court said providing free ARV treatment to non-citizen prisoners would help prevent the spread of HIV and other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis.