Zambia’s government drops mandatory HIV testing

Far too many Zambians are suffering from HIV/Aids and not enough are aware or on treatment. PHOTO: NAMPA/REUTERS

The Zambian government on Monday backed down on its earlier decision to introduce mandatory HIV testing, saying testing will not be forced on citizens, Xinhua reports.

Last week’s announcement on the mandatory HIV tasting caused uproar, with some stakeholders saying the move was against human rights as testing should be consented to by an individual.

According to the earlier announcement, the country’s President Lungu declared that the government introduced mandatory HIV testing and that anyone who visits a health facility for any ailment will be tested for HIV as well.

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.

But Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said in all HIV testing, the health practitioners will be seeking the consent of the patients and that patients will have the option of opting out if they do not want to be tested for HIV, this according to the report.

“Before any blood is drawn from your body, consent will be obtained and the tests or any kind of diagnosis explained to the patient. It is not like there will be police officers who will be arresting those people that will opt out but it is important to encourage everyone to know their HIV status,” he said when he appeared on a live interview on state broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday evening.

He said the health practitioners have been trained to ensure that they adhered to the global standards and medical ethics on HIV testing.

Around 1.2 million people in Zambia are living with HIV. 67% of the people are aware of their status while 85% are on treatment. This is according to Avert.

Children have been severely affected by the HIV epidemic in Zambia, where 85,000 children are estimated to be living with HIV, alongside 380,000 children orphaned by AIDS