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Region slams Botswana over health bill

NENEWS

Botswana faces an onslaught over the proposed Public Health Bill, which a regional AIDS and rights alliance organisation has described as regressive.A regional litigation centre has also joined the fray. Both came out guns blazing this week accusing the government of Botswana of infringing on the rights of its citizenry.

The two groups are adamant that the proposed Bill, which parliament recently deferred, infringes on the human rights of the people of Botswana. 

In separate statements released this week, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) criticised the government over the development which they also labelled as controversial.

Michaela Clayton, the Director of ARASA, insists that some aspects of the Bill go against all regional and international human rights principles and instruments, as well as Botswana’s Bill of Rights. Clauses 104 (3) and 105 (2), for example, provide for mandatory HIV testing of anyone by a medical practitioner with the subject’s knowledge. 

Clayton posits that under Clause 109 (3) of the Bill clients due for surgical or dental procedure can be required to undergo an HIV test before the procedure, saying the move is contrary to international health standards.

The Bill also seeks to force doctors to report HIV cases to the Director of Health Services along with Tuberculosis (TB), smallpox, cholera and yellow fever, among many other airborne diseases. Priti Patel, Deputy Director of SALC, says although certain aspects of the Bill are progressive, the problematic areas will derail the good intentions that the Bill has. 

Addressing a press conference in Gaborone recently, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Shenaaz El-Halabi denied that the proposed Public Health Bill violates human rights.