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Mandatory HIV testing policy marred with inconsistency – UPNDBy Sipilisiwe Ncube on 23 Aug 2017
UPND Spokesperson Charles Kakoma says the party has noted with dismay at the level of policy inconsistencies that the PF government continues to exhibit on sensitive matter.
In a statement, Kakoma said it was unfortunate that the policy statements from President Edgar Lungu and the position taken by Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya were not contradictory, adding that if not handled carefully, the pronouncement had the potential to backfire and derail all the achievements gained so far in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Recently the nation woke up to a policy pronouncement by the President who informed the nation that his cabinet sat to discuss and adopt as policy, compulsory counselling, testing and treatment for HIV in the country, a shift from existing voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). Few days later, the nation again woke up to another policy correction by the Minister of Health who said the opposite of what the President said. We have been dismayed by this serious policy inconsistencies by this government,” Kakoma said.
“As UPND we strongly support efforts aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country and beyond, but those efforts must be well thought through and well calculated and researched before adoption. Such efforts must also be in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations programs on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on testing and treatment as provided in their policy statement dated 28th November, 2012 which is in agreement and respects all intricacies including the Human Rights
Kakoma said before a mandatory HIV testing policy was adopted, there was need for community and family acceptance of new policy measures as well as ZERO stigma towards both the infected and the affected.
“On 28th November, 2012 WHO and UNAIDS policy statement which is guiding document to HIV testing and treatment says ‘people being tested for HIV must give CONSENT before being tested. They must be informed of the process of HIV testing and counselling, services that will be available depending on the results and their right to refuse must equally be read out to them before any test is conducted.’ in short the principles of the 5Cs which are Consent, Confidentiality, Counseling, Correct results, and Connection to HIV prevention, treatment and care services must all be adhered to,” he said.
Kakoma also stressed the need for stable government support and sustainable supply of Anti Ritroviral therapy (ARTs) in health facilities with no reports of shortages at any given time.
“As UPND we believe that in the absence of the above, it was ironic and irresponsible for this government to make that policy pronouncement. We commend the Minister for his quick ‘NOLLE’ to this seemingly irresponsible policy. We as UPND in accordance with our policy as spelt out in our revised manifesto support by the Zambia Human Rights Commission on the respect to
Human Rights,” said Kakoma.
“Our advise to government is that they should be consistent and direct their efforts on scaling up the existing and proven programs that are currently ongoing and being sustainably supported by the cooperating partners and other agencies executed through public and private facilities and NGOs.
About Sipilisiwe Ncube
Sipilisiwe Ncube is a Zambian journalist with a background in radio news.
Email: sipilisiwe [at] diggers [dot] news
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