The opposition FDD says it opposes the mandatory HIV testing declared by Republican President Edgar Lungu as it is it not only unethical but a violation of human rights, violets ones bodily privacy and is detrimental to public health.
FDD Deputy National Secretary Antonio Mwanza said no one, not even government has the right to force anyone to be tested for anything as that is one’s preserve.
He said the declaration by the President is counterproductive as it will make people stay away from health facilities for fear of being forced to be tested for HIV.
“As FDD we strongly oppose mandatory HIV testing for a number of reasons: Mandatory HIV testing is unethical as it violates human rights; it violates the privacy and bodily integrity of persons and is actually detrimental to public health as it is counterproductive as many people would shy away from health centres for fear of being forced into testing against their will. No, one not even a government has right to force someone to take a test they don’t want. People must take a conscious decision to either take a test or not.
“Studies the world over have proved that mandatory testing does not result into reduced cases of HIV and AIDS. There is no evidence whatsoever that mandatory testing of HIV results into behavioural change,” he said.
Mr Mwanza making HIV testing mandatory would be going against the outlined 5-Cs as defined by the World Health Organisation which must respected.
He outlined the 5-Cs as Consent, Confidentiality, Counselling, Correct test results and Connection/linkage to prevention, care and treatment he said are the key principles which should apply to all models of HTC services.
He said people being tested for HIV must give informed consent to be tested.
He said one must not only be physically and pychologically prepared to take the test but be informed of the process for HTC, the services that will be available depending on the results as well as their right to refuse testing.
He said coerced testing is never appropriate, regardless of where that coercion comes from, government inclusive.
“The UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report of 2012 provides evidence that adhering to the principles of voluntary testing and practices for HTC and linking those tested to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support can enable countries to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections and reduce HIV-related morbidity and mortality.
“These gains are further enhanced when countries take steps to increase access to: voluntary HTC, including for key at-risk and vulnerable populations; prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT); and ARV treatment to all those who need it,” he said.
He said should focus its energies on addressing real issues as opposed to forcing people to test for HIV.
He said among other measure, government should ensure that it expands access through an ethical process for conducting HTC, including defining the purpose of the test and the risks and benefits to the person being tested.
He noted that assuring linkages between the site where the test is conducted and appropriate treatment, care, prevention, and other services, in an environment that guarantees confidentiality of all medical information would also increase the number of people testing and being treated.
He said there is need to address the implications of a positive test result, including the risk of discrimination and stigma and the importance of early enrolment in HIV treatment, care and follow-up services as needed.
“Reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination at all levels, including within health-care settings.
“Ensuring a supportive legal and policy framework within which the response is scaled up, including safeguarding the human rights of people accessing HTC and other services.
“Improving the healthcare infrastructure so quality services adhering to these principles can be sustained in the face of increased demand for testing, treatment, and related services and ensures effective monitoring and evaluation is in place,” he said
And Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) has said that it is against the policy on mandatory HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment for all patients who visit public health institutions to seek medical attention, as announced by President Edgar Lungu.
TALC Country Coordinator Felix Mwanza has told QTV News via telephone that while the government might mean well, mandatory HIV testing is against human rights.
Mr. Mwanza said that a person must give a consent that they be tested for HIV because of the impact this might have on one’s life if found to be positive.
Mr. Mwanza said that the mandatory HIV testing will also result in many people shunning health institutions for fear of being tested for HIV.
Mr. Mwanza said that though the government may have outstanding goals, this is not the correct way of testing people, adding that government should focus on encouraging people to go for Voluntary Counseling and Testing instead of compelling them to do HIV tests.
Meanwhile, Society for Family Health (SFH) says it has so far distributed over 90,000 HIV self testing Kits in four Provinces since the program’s inception in August last year.
SFH Lusaka Regional Manager Handson Manda named the four provinces as Southern, Lusaka, Central and Eastern.
He tells QTV that of the 90,000 testing kits distributed, Lusaka alone accounted for over 30,000 kits, through various modes of distribution.
Mr Manda says the response from the public has been overwhelming, owing to the contribution and participation of the Ministry of Health in the program.
He has since described program as a success thus far, attributing this to political will on the part of government.
Mr. Manda has since stated that that with the positive response received from the initial four provinces, the society is now looking at rolling-out the program to other provinces in the country.