Contestants have make up applied before the judging round in Botswana's "Mr. HIV Positive Living 2006" pageant in Gaborone
About one-in-six people in Botswana (or 17 percent) is HIV-positive Reuters

The former President of Botswana has called for his country to decriminalize homosexuality and prostitution in an effort to slow down the spread of the HIV virus.

Festus Mogae, who leads the government-supported AIDS Council, told BBC that is difficult to encourage safe sex in a country where homosexuality and prostitution are illegal.

I don't understand it [homosexuality]. I am a heterosexual, he told BBC. I look at women. I don't look at other men. But there are men who look at other men. These are citizens.

Mogae also called on the government to change its policy on sex workers.

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.

He also called for the distribution of condoms in the prison system.

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, he added.

While Botswana is a relatively stable and democratic country with a conservative society, it is also laboring under one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/Aids infection – according to reports, about one-in-six people in Botswana (or 17 percent) is HIV-positive.

Nonetheless, Mogae’s views are likely to be shunned. A government spokesman told BBC that homosexuality and prostitution would remain illegal practices until the state officials conducted a thorough study on whether changes to the law were necessary.

After serving two terms in office, Mogae stepped down in 2008 and is widely admired across Africa. Under his administration, Botswana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to make anti=retroviral drugs widely available.

Still, the AIDS/HIV crisis has cut a devastating swathe of misery across the country of just 2-million people. Reportedly, one in three adults is either infected with the HIB virus or has full-blown AIDS, resulting in thousands of orphans.