HIV prevention amongst MSM in Botswana
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are highly stigmatised in many countries. Anecdotal evidence from around the world indicates that MSM are well established communities who face serious violence and restricted access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. The Botswana Government has committed to utilizing a rights-based approach in its response to HIV. At the core of that approach, the principle of equity applies. HIV prevalence in Botswana is at 17% and encouragingly access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is increasing at national level. However, against this progressive background there is anecdotal evidence that access is not equal across different social groups such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities including MSM in the community and in prison settings. BONELA, a non-governmental organization, is committed to making human rights a reality. While people with alternative sexual identities face stigma, discrimination and violence, they are also facing repressive laws. BONELA continuously engages in comprehensive advocacy for the inclusion of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered in the national response to HIV/AIDS. For example, BONELA advocates for prevention in prisons (distribution of condoms in prisons) and most importantly, in 2007 BONELA was engaged in a needs assessment to inform a comprehensive STI/HIV prevention programme for sexual minorities. This programme is the first of its kind to place people with non-heterosexual sexual identity within the national response to HIV. Although an informal organization of lesbians, gays and bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) was refused registration to be a formal organization by the governmental Registrar of Societies, the Botswana Government has granted BONELA a permit to conduct a research survey on HIV prevalence among MSM, and now LeGaBiBo is filling a law suite for non-registration. BONELA will highlight all of these in its presentation.
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