Botswana is offering free antiretroviral therapy and drugs to both citizens and non-citizens. The initiative is commendable in regard to bad treatment that most migrants are exposed to. The Southern Africa country has extended its free antiretroviral therapy initiative to migrants and sex workers.
According to reports, more than 30,000 migrants living in Botswana are HIV positive, and most of them are sex workers.
Before now, the country, like many other countries in the world, does not offer treatment to non-citizens.
Botswana has started offering free antiretroviral therapy (ARV) to foreign sex workers, following a decision to extend treatment to non-citizens.
A Thirty-five-year-old HIV-positive sex worker from Zambia and currently living in Botswana granted an interview to an international media agency.
In the interview, Mary Banda explained how the initiative will likely better the lives of many individuals.
"I am very happy because most people's (lives) will be saved. Especially those who were struggling to get ARVs from back home. When they called us to get help, we couldn't believe that it was really happening. We thought they were just talking.
"After getting the medication, they make sure we are follow up to check if the tablets are fine and taking the medicine. They monitor if there is nothing like side effects or whatever," Banda said.
The initiative by the Botswana government has received accolades from local and international non-governmental organizations as a positive step toward fighting HIV/AIDS.
Tebogo Gareitsanye, a legal and advocacy officer at the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), describes the development as progressive.
"Sexual relationships are indiscriminate. That is to say, we cannot provide ARVs to a certain portion of people who live in the country, and yet not provide the same treatment to another sub-sector of residents of the country," Gareitsanye said.
The local sex workers' organization, Sisonke Director, Tosh Beka also commended the move.
"We are very excited. It is long overdue because we have been fighting for migrants to get ARVs. It is a milestone," Beka said.
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What are Antiretroviral Drugs?
Antiretroviral drugs are drugs used to prevent a retrovirus, such as HIV, from replicating. The term primarily refers to antiretroviral (ARV) HIV drugs.
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