The Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) says President Edgar Lungu’s pronouncement to make HIV/AIDS testing compulsory for any Zambian seeking health care is a violation of human rights.
Responding to a press query from News Diggers, Mwanza observed that compulsory testing for HIV would be detrimental to the Health profession because it was unethical.
“President Edgar Lungu has declared HIV testing mandatory or compulsory, meaning that from now on you will be forced to take an HIV test whether you want or not. As FDD we strongly oppose mandatory testing for a number of reasons: firstly, 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,” Mwanza said.
And Mwanza said forcing people to test for HIV against their will neither resulted into behavioural change nor guaranteed reduced cases of HIV/AIDS.
“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. The World Health Organisation, to which Zambia is a signatory has defined five key components(5-Cs) that must be respected and adhered to by all HTC services comprising of consent, confidentiality, counselling, correct test results and connection to prevention, care and treatment. The five Cs, and the key principles they entail, apply to all models of HTC services,” Mwanza said.
“People being tested for HIV must give informed consent to be tested. They must be physically and psychologically prepared to take the test. They must be informed of the process for HTC, the services that will be available depending on the results, and their right to refuse testing. Mandatory (coerced) testing is never appropriate, regardless of where that coercion comes from, government inclusive.”
Mwanza advised government to start looking into ways of combating further spread of HIV/AIDS and other related infections.
“Instead of forcing people to test for HIV against their own will, government should instead focus its energies on addressing issues that would help to combat the spread of HIV such as ensuring expanded 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. 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,” stated Mwanza.
“Addressing the implications of a positive test result, including the risk of discrimination and stigma and the importance of early enrollment 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 health care 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.”