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over proposed mandatory HIV-testing
Mbanje, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
August 25, 2013
Human rights activists
and members of the public have expressed outrage at Sadc’s
proposal to initiate a compulsory universal HIV- testing in all
member states, as a means to reduce new infections.
The idea was initiated
by President Robert Mugabe during the Aids Watch Africa briefing
at the just-ended Sadc summit in Malawi.
It received a lot of
support from other leaders, who felt that drastic measures were
now required to contain the scourge.
However, members of the
public and human rights activists have received the news with varied
responses, with many openly opposing the idea.
Mandatory HIV and Aids-testing
has always been fraught with emotion, misunderstanding and lack
Regionally and internationally,
it has failed to be implemented due to its implications on human
“No matter how
grave the situation, HIV-testing should always be on voluntary basis
if we want to see the required results,” said Tafadzwa Ruwende,
a male student nurse.
“I do not understand
why heads of state would even try to initiate a debate on that issue.
It is unethical, just as it is in contravention of basic human rights.
In a world where we champion the right to choose, mandatory testing
is not an option,” he said.
A nurse counsellor
Services International (PSI) said it defied logic that the subject
should be introduced at this point, when great strides had already
been made using the voluntary testing method.
“As a counsellor,
when a client comes for testing it is stressed that they are doing
so voluntarily. If at any point during the session the client feels
they no longer want to continue, we end it right there,” she
“The success of
the counselling session and the measures that follow thereafter
like treatment plans, are premised on how ready the client is to
know their status. If one is forced, they may not be able to deal
with their results should they turn out to be positive.”
Choga Mahoto from Waterfalls
in Harare had no kind words for Malawian President, Joyce Banda
for equating HIV and Aids to epidemics like polio, whereby everyone
is forced to take vaccines against the disease.
“It is worrying
when a head of state says HIV-testing should just be like taking
a vaccine for polio. HIV and Aids have many issues like stigma,
which makes it difficult to equate them with other diseases,”
Banda came out strongly
supporting Mugabe at the summit, saying there was no need to bring
in the human rights aspect.
“When we were dealing
with epidemics like polio, everybody was forced to take vaccines.
Why is it that when it comes to HIV and Aids, rights come into the
equation?” said Banda.
on the issue, the chairperson for the Zimbabwe
Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), Rutendo Bonde
said the move was a violation of basic human rights.
“Consent is the
pivotal principle in any medical procedure. If you take that away,
then we have big problems,” she said.
Another member of ZADHR,
who declined to be named, said the organisation was mooting issuing
out a statement on the issue of mandatory testing.
Bonde would neither confirm
nor deny that ZADHR would issue a statement, saying she would only
comment after having a board meeting, scheduled for yesterday.
However, besides the
ethical and rights issues of mandatory HIV and Aids-testing, there
are logistics and the costs to consider as well because those who
would have tested positive would eventually be put on anti-retroviral
Aids Council said about 1,2 million people were living with
HIV in Zimbabwe and 600 000 of them were in need of anti-retroviral
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