Government will shut down all private health facilities not complying with Mandatory HIV testing

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Health Minister, DR Chitalu Chilufya (R) stressing a point on the newly launched HIV /AIDS mandatory testing and counselling that President Edgar Lungu launched on Tuesday. Listening (middle) is Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Kampamba Mulenga and Presidential press aid Amos Chanda (left). Picture by SUNDAY BWALYA/ZANIS
Health Minister, DR Chitalu Chilufya (R) stressing a point on the newly launched HIV /AIDS mandatory testing and counselling that President Edgar Lungu launched on Tuesday. Listening (middle) is Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Kampamba Mulenga and Presidential press aid Amos Chanda (left). Picture by SUNDAY BWALYA/ZANIS
GOVERNMENT has threatened to shut down all private health facilities that will not comply with the policy decision of compulsory testing for HIV of individuals who visit health facilities for any ailment.

Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said the decision to have HIV testing as mandatory is evidence-backed and applies to all health institutions, including private ones.

Dr Chilufya said in an interview yesterday that further proclamation on how to proceed on this matter will be announced. The decision was made during a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

During a press briefing at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services earlier, Dr Chilufya wondered why people are afraid of knowing their HIV status.

“Why are people afraid of knowing their status? It’s better you know so that if you are positive, medication is given to preserve your life,” he said.

He disclosed that 81 percent of admissions at the University Teaching Hospital are HIV-related.

Dr Chilufya, who was flanked by Minister of Information and Broadcasting Kampamba Mulenga and special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda, said health systems are overburdened by HIV cases, hence the need to reduce new infections.

He said the mandatory testing is a responsible decision to fast-track the elimination of HIV.

“This decision is in line with the joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS which states that 90 percent of people should know their status by 2020,” Dr Chilufya said.

Dr Chilufya said HIV infections from mother to child have reduced tremendously as mothers are tested for HIV during pregnancy, and treatment given if found positive.

And Mr Chanda said President Lungu will not allow people to die when they can be helped. He said the mandatory HIV testing decision is final as it is now a policy.

Ms Mulenga said the HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment which has replaced the Voluntary Counselling and Testing will help reduce new infections.

Ms Mulenga said privacy is assured to any person who visits the hospital.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have welcomed Government’s announcement of mandatory HIV test and treatment with the Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) pledging to promote confidentiality of HIV test results of clients.

President Lungu on Tuesday declared that HIV testing is now mandatory for anyone who visits any public health facility for any ailment.

President Lungu said HIV testing will now be among other tests to be done on patients to ascertain their state of health to provide timely and appropriate remedies.

ZMA president Abidan Chansa described President Lungu’s declaration of mandatory HIV testing as a “bold and welcome move”.

“And as an association, we will promote professionalism and confidentiality among people who handle HIV test results,” Dr Chansa said.

He said in an interview yesterday, mandatory HIV testing will play a crucial role in ending HIV and AIDS by 2030.

Dr Chansa said human rights infringement cannot supersede the life-saving benefits that will come with mandatory HIV testing.

He said mandatory HIV testing calls for enhancement of HIV counselling services.

Dr Chansa also called on Government to consider enhancing the country’s ability to generate more money towards antiretroviral therapy.

“There is need for Government and other stakeholders to ensure a stable health financing system so that we do not overly depend on donors.

“Government should safeguard health care so that we do not have challenges when stakeholders pull out their funding,” he said.

And the Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) said mandatory HIV testing is a new gateway to HIV prevention, care and treatment.

PMRC executive director Bernadette Deka said in a statement that mandatory testing will expand access to HIV testing and enhance access to HIV prevention activities, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Ms Deka, however, said there is need to explore health-care providers’ attitudes toward mandatory HIV-testing for different patients and various factors associated with providers’ attitudes towards mandatory HIV testing.

And musician and HIV/AIDS activist Paul Banda, who is living positively, called for an end of discrimination against people living with HIV.

Mr Banda, who was born HIV positive, said while mandatory testing is welcome, there is need to put in place initiatives aimed at ending discrimination against those who will test positive after undergoing the ‘compelling test’.

But the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) feels mandatory HIV testing is against human rights.

NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale said in a statement that compelling an individual to test for HIV is not a guarantee that they will adhere to treatment.
“As much as it is Government’s responsibility to ensure a healthy nation, such a pronouncement [mandatory HIV testing] does little in respecting citizen’s individual rights especially to privacy which are guaranteed in the Constitution,” Ms Mwale said.

She said Government should have instead scaled up voluntary counselling and testing for HIV which failed to yield positive results due to ineffective implementation.
And MWILA NTAMBI reports from Kitwe that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has urged Government to be cautious on the enforcement of the policy.

HRC chairperson Mudford Mwandenga said in a statement released yesterday that Government should adhere to the United Nations guideline on HIV testing and counselling as articulated through the joint UN programme on AIDS (UNAIDS).

Mr Mwandenga said while the commission acknowledges Government’s efforts in achieving zero new HIV infections and related deaths, there is need to be cautious in ensuring human rights are not violated during the course of implementing those efforts.

He said voluntary HIV testing still remains the preferred effective mode of fighting HIV and AIDS because it is anchored on sound public health practice and respect for human rights as guided by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I THINK THAT IS NOW TOO MUCH. IT IS BETTER TO PERSUADE PEOPLE TO TEST AND NOT TO FORCE. OTHERWISE PEOPLE WILL START SHUNNING THE SERVICES. PEOPLE MUST BE READY. READY TO TEST AND READY TO START TAKING THE ARVS. IF THEY ARE NOT WILLING THEN YOU HAVE JUST SENTENCED THEM TO PERPETUAL MISERY OF SELF STIGMATIZATION.

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    • They should first test that brown one in the middle. Then they can force every other Zambian. Are South African hospitals where they go going to test them?

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    • YOU CANT FORCE MEDICAL PROCEDURES ON PEOPLE! (You would have to put this in the constitution)

      You will now have more people dying in the country because they don’t want to go to the clinic for fear of being tested. People will be dying from simple and curable illnesses like flu.

      Imagine going to a clinic for a broken bone and you get an HIV test?

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    • Don’t worry guys. they wont test you. The government is not serious about this issue. they know very well that it is not good to force people to test. They announced it deliberately a day before HH was released so that people can concentrate on discussing this issue which they thought was going to be a big one, to distract them from celebrating HH’s release. It is going nowhere otherwise and they don’t mean it.

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    • Knowing how crooked these guys are, they are probably the ones behind those “i have been healed” adverts on Facebook. Their intention is to promote those quacks by discouraging people from going to hospitals.

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  2. The legacy that President Lungu is laying before us such as this HIV will live long before all of us.

    In simple analysis this man is the reason million of lives would have been saved !

    A round of applause everyone please.

    Thanks

    BB2014,2016

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    • Mushota,

      did YOU understand what you wrote? “the legacy… will live long before all of us”…
      “…million of lives would have been saved…” – ‘would have been’ – so they were NOT saved?

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    • @Ivo kikikikiki ba PHD holder. With such illogic! From now on I won’t have any respect for PHDs done in Great Britain

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  3. That pronouncement is unethical to start with because it takes away patient autonomy. What you say matters less than how you say it Bwana minister. Your intentions may be right but remember that how you approach issues may not get you the intended results. Try to get views from the public the way you did with your attempt to withdraw from ICC! That will give you a clearer picture rather than issuing empty and unprofessional threats! Let’s be ethical!

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    • And these threats sure in Bemba they say “Imbwa yamukali taisuma” meaning the dog owned by a man who is always beating it or abusing it stops bitting or more appropriately stops fearing the owner..Threats are issued daily.Which reminds me where is the Chief Threatener Kampyongo?At the end of the day nobody will take you guys seriously we will be laughing after hearing your threats.Try to appeal to our intellect not our fears or you will find everybody taking you for a jock.
      Already short of death what threats are you now going to issue to Hakainde?He has already tested prison.

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  4. Ms Mulenga said privacy is assured to any person who visits the hospital…

    No such thing as privacy in Zambia. We have lawyers that gossip about their clients and bank employees that discuss customer account balances and activities.

    I expect no less from medical practitioners. Zambians by nature are very malicious.

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    • There is what is called shared confidentiality when it comes to medical records. The medical record is handled first by the clerk who files it and the different medical personnel who handle it. This has worked very well because all such persons handling the sacred medical record are under oath to maintain confidentiality. If you know anyone who has violated this trust and you have evidence to that effect, it is your right to sue and report such quacks to the Health Professions council or General nursing council for disciplinary action. Having said that, there is another aspect to this issue. Some people are so heavily self-stigmatized to the point of becoming too paranoid about everything. They will allege breach of confidentiality where none has taken place. This is a sign of denial of…

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    • This is a sign of denial of one’s established status and is a mental health issue which leads to more stress and self-destruction health wise. We need to open up more to this HIV thing. It is a chronic manageable condition just like diabetes and hypertension. What I don’t agree with is this government approach of trying to police HIV testing because they want to fulfill statistics of 90 90 90. The freedom to choose to test remains with every individual and must be respected. It is a good thing to get everyone to test but when it becomes a matter of forcing people to test, the patient loses autonomy which is wrong ethically and opens the patient to abuse. We also end up creating another epidemic of refusals to test which in the end defeats the whole essence of HIV program which is…

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  5. Say i go to masala clinic, i get tested , a week later i am vomiting i am at chipukusu so i go there. How many tests are year am i going to have and where is the money coming from to pay for all of this.
    Just a thought…..does masala give me a letter then does every other clinic i go to do the same. Has this been thought thru

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    • Obama once described GW Bush as a person who shoots then aims.Be rest assured Masalamuso that there definetly was no thinking through the issues you now raise and one gets to wonder why announce before working out implementation modalities.

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  6. We also end up creating another epidemic of refusals to test which in the end defeats the whole essence of HIV program which is getting people to test and HAART therapy (ART is not Treatment!).

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  7. Guidance of UNAIDS and WHO in their policy statement dated 28th November 2012 states that:

    “People being tested for HIV must give informed consent to be tested. They must be informed of the process of HIV Testing and Counselling, the services that will be available depending on the results, and their right to refuse testing. Mandatory or compulsory (coerced) testing is never appropriate, regardless of where that coercion comes from: health-care providers, partners, family members, employers or others” .

    But why was someone being tested for BP instead of leading by Example?
    Its now Compulsory Counseling and Testing (CCT) and not VCT.

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  8. I totally agree with the President’s directive for compulsory HIV testing.
    For God’s sake why don’t you think of innocent people who are being infected by those who are HIV positive? Who should enjoy human rights – the deliberate infector or the innocently infected? Why should government continue wasting scarce resources on infections created and multiplied by HIV positive people? Do you want to decimate this population when you can arrest its destruction through bold interventions like the one declared by the President, just because of human rights of HIV positive citizens? What about human rights of the innocently infected persons? Whose human rights come first between the HIV positive person and an innocent uninfected person? Let’s get serious.
    Why don’t you tell those HIV positive…

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    • But do you think results will be made public for you to know that one is positive or negative? We still have so many people in the country that have undergone vct but still continue infecting others without shame. Stress must be on behavioural change. I see a lot of problems with this than an eye can see

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  9. Cont’d
    Why don’t you tell those HIV positive people to stop infecting innocent citizens first, and see if they will hear you? They will continue spreading the disease, after all they don’t know that they are infected. Is that what you want?
    The President is killing two birds with one stone – protecting the HIV positive persons and possible candidates for infection by the former. Ignorance has no defence.
    Mr. President, don’t listen to those who blindly propound human rights so that they can continue to infect innocent citizens under the guise of human rights, no! You have a country to protect, and that is your greatest calling.
    When those people are tested and found positive, they will be counselled, treated, live normal full lives, add to national development, and most importantly,…

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  10. Cont’d
    and most importantly, they will be aware (take precautions) and think twice before infecting others deliberately. The element of saying “I didn’t know my status before infecting the other person” will be eradicated!
    What more can you ask for in a President!

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  11. Once testsd it is recommended thst you get retested every 6 weeks 15 million pipo being tested every 6 weeks .logistically we cannot do it.. have we discussed this with the donor community that contibute the majority of funding to the fight sgainst hiv aids. Shut down the facilities that dont comply and then u have less facilities that have the potential to test.

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  12. The clinics who refuse to mandatory tests are adhering to the hippocratic oath. The laws of the country must not clash with professional ethics. Medicine is an established profession. The profession’s thics dtermine the laws not the other way round

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  13. Uko mwanya ama Zambians dictatorship at it’s best. Losing your right to choose when it comes to your God given body. I wouldn’t just test Lungu and FCB so they can reveal their results. Next Zambians will be forced to one bag of mealie meal

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  14. Our government is something else always warning and threatening its citizenry. And then come campaign time they will be kneeing before electorates pretending to be humble.

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  15. No one should be forced to do tests if they do not want to. soon you will start circumcizing people by force. Start by testing your mother and father. Zambia is not a nation where people are ruled by decrees. Seriously you’re over stepping your authority. We will start dealing with you one by one. Remember we are adults, you have no business to do in our private lives.

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