Connect to share and comment

A daily chronicle of a rapidly changing continent.

Botswana leader: Legalize gays to fight HIV spread

Former President Festus Mogae said homosexuality and prostitution should be legalized to fight the spread of HIV.
Botswana festus morae 2011 10 19Enlarge
President Festus Mogae has called for his country to decriminalize prostitution and homosexuality to prevent the spread of HIV. In this photo Mogae speaks during talks about upcoming elections on March 28, 2011, in Abuja, Nigeria. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae has called for his country to decriminalize prostitution and homosexuality to prevent the spread of HIV, according to the BBC.

Mogae, who now heads the government-supported AIDS Council, said the challenges of promoting safe sex would be lessened by making the two practices legal.

“To protect them and their clients from being infected, you have to assist them to protect themselves. I don’t think by arresting them you help them,” he said, according to the International Business Times.

The former president also asked for condoms to be distributed in prisons, and said the government is causing the HIV/AIDS pandemic to worsen by ignoring the situation.

“If people can go to prison HIV negative and come out of it HIV positive, it means that prisons, whatever the law says, are one of the sources of infection,” Mogae said.

Botswana is a relatively stable and democratic society in southern Africa, but it has one of the highest HIV-rates in the world. About 17 percent of the population is HIV-positive.

Mogae’s views contrast sharply with the beliefs of many in the largely conservative country, the BBC reported. The controversial stance is likely to be eschewed since many in the country — including Mogae himself — are not accepting of homosexuality and prostitution.

“I don’t understand it [homosexuality]. I am a heterosexual,” he said, according to Pink News. “I look at women. I don’t look at other men. But there are men who look at other men. These are citizens.”

Mogae’s presidency ended after two terms in 2008, after he saw his country become the first sub-Saharan country to introduce free anti-retroviral to end mother-to-child AIDS transmission.

He was awarded the $5 million Mo Ibrahim award later in 2008 for his leadership in Botswana and was commended by the former U.N. leader Kofi Annan for working aggressively to tackle the HIV/AIDS problem.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/africa-emerges/botswana-leader-legalize-gays-fight-hiv-spread