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In pictures: Vital HIV care for local communities in Botswana forced to stop
Gabatswane, BOFWA client
In 2012, Gabatswane learned she was HIV positive. "I suspect I contracted HIV from my sex work. There were times I had to engage in risky sex, depending on the money on the table."
Gabatswane used to go to the BOFWA clinic in Selebi Phikwe for treatment. “I enjoyed the confidentiality that they had there, compared to the government [clinic] where everyone knows everything. It was comfortable talking to the BOFWA providers.” Due to the Global Gag Rule’s funding cuts, the BOFWA clinic has been forced to close.
"I've been a female sex worker for 5 years and a peer outreach worker for the last two. I was looking at the problems that us sex workers encounter, and thought that this peer outreach system might be able to help,” says Goabaone, explaining how she came to work with MCDA.
Since the Global Gag Rule funding cuts the scheme has ended, and she now has to refer them to the government clinic. BOFWA was different: “At BOFWA we felt free, there is no stigma. They didn’t ask [how you got the infection], they just treated you every time,” Goabaone says.
“I’m a sex worker and peer outreach worker for the Nkaikela Youth Group. We reach the other sex workers because we are the ones that know them. We go to their houses, we go to the hotspots like clubs and the street; we reach them and encourage them to come here [to the Youth Group],” says Jackie, 34.
“We get a good service with BOFWA, they’re helping us to come for tests and they’re treating us good. With BOFWA if you come for HIV testing and were positive they would initiate you on to treatment the same day. Any problem you could discuss with them without fear, like they are your brothers and sisters.” Read Jackie's full story here
Joseph, 19, first came to BOFWA in 2017 when he and his boyfriend decided to start practicing safe sex. “I had put myself in risky situations so thought I should get tested for HIV,” he says. After learning he was HIV positive, Joseph tried out a few clinics to receive his treatment but found BOFWA to be the most confidential and friendly.
Sitting in the clinic behind the doctor’s desk, he says, “I never have any problems coming here. I feel comfortable here. At [the government clinic] there is no privacy; most of my friends are there. Sometimes if you go there you find them suspecting something, and everyone will be knowing your status. That’s why I prefer BOFWA.” Read Joseph's full story here
A few months after beginning her HIV treatment the BOFWA clinic was forced to close due to the Global Gag Rule funding cuts. “In April I received a call from my nurse telling me the clinic is being closed. She gave me tablets for two months up to June 2018. She told me I will get transferred to a government clinic," Keanantswe says.
Although getting treatment is now much harder for her, she has to continue going every month or risks getting sick and even dying. “We have lost so much without BOFWA, not only me, but many women. I wish it would open again,” she says.
The Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) has been providing sexual and reproductive health care since 1988. Yet, since the Global Gag Rule was reintroduced in January 2017, this vital care and support for local communities can no longer continue due to loss of funding.