HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment has been made compulsory in Zambia in all government-run health facilities, President Edgar Lungu today announced.
He said the new policy measure is in response to the government’s HIV agenda of eradicating the virus by 2030.
President Lungu made the announcement at the inaugural HIV Testing Counselling and Treatment Day commemoration under the theme “Test and Treat: Towards Ending AIDS” held at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka – according to local media.
In his announcement, the President emphasised the importance of protecting the lives of those affected and those who they can affect, saying that it “overrides the human rights argument about voluntary testing.”
“I must admit that there were some colleagues who felt that this policy would infringe on human rights, but then no one has the right take away somebody’s life,” the President stated.
“Just the same way we don’t consult you for consent when we are testing for Malaria, we will go ahead and test you for HIV and we will counsel you and if you are positive, we will commence you on treatment,” President Lungu said.
The policy is however a major shift from global standards and guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) and UNAIDS that promotes voluntary counselling and testing.
The two U.N. agencies are strongly opposed to mandatory HIV testing.
Several studies have shown that as much as compulsory testing increases treatment outcomes, the regime also promotes stigma towards HIV.