MEDIA RELEASE: Zambian civil societies express deep concern over compulsory HIV testing

Posted by Editor on August 18, 2017

 

 MEDIA RELEASE 

Zambian civil societies express deep concern over compulsory HIV testing 

18 August 2017 

LUSAKA, Zambia —The Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), Community Initiative for Malaria and Tuberculosis (CITAMplus), Coalition for Zambian Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COZWHA), Network of ARV Users and Zambian Network of Religious Living or Personally Affected by (ZANERELA) would like to commend the Zambian Government on the Launch of HIV Counseling Testing and Treatment Day (HCTT) on the 15th August, 2017 by His Excellence Edgar Chagwa Lungu. This intervention will certainly help in putting more people on treatment that will be found to be HIV positive. 

However, we express deep concern on the recent announcement during the launch by The Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu that HIV testing, counseling and treatment is now compulsory in Zambia for any person seeking medical treatment in public healthcare facilities. We therefore, appeal to the Government to rescind the decision and revoke the proclamation forthwith. 

“Compulsory HIV testing is illegal and unconstitutional in Zambia as both the Supreme Court and the High Court in Zambia have found that consent is only present if it is provided freely, without undue influence, coercion, fraud, misrepresentation or mistake”, said Felix Mwanza National Director for TALC. 

“While the policy aims, according to President Lungu, to improve HIV testing and treatment adherence rates, on the contrary, coercive measures fuel stigma and drive people away from healthcare facilities” said Carol Nawina Nyirenda Executive for CITAMplus. 

“Informed consent is critical to ensure that individuals are empowered in managing their health. It has been shown that an individual’s sense of self-efficacy plays a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks, and challenges regarding one's health, with directly-evidenced clinical benefits” said Mable Mwale Coordinator for COZWHA . 

“The approach also violates healthcare ethics and is contrary to international standards, including World Health Organisation and UNAIDS guidelines on HIV testing and treatment. International guidelines on HIV and human rights from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) state “public health legislation should ensure that HIV testing of individuals should only be performed with the specific informed consent of that individual”, said Kenly Sikwese from Afrocab. Exceptions to voluntary testing would need specific judicial authorisation, granted only after due evaluation of the 

important considerations involved in terms of privacy and liberty.”1 The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) similarly state that HIV testing must “only [be] conducted with informed consent”. 

Forcing people to test for HIV or to take HIV treatment creates a disincentive to voluntarily access healthcare services. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health has emphasised the negative public health impacts of forced or compulsory treatment: “Just as linking appropriate counselling and treatment to voluntary testing services is an enabling incentive for testing, compulsory treatment measures are a disincentive,” concluded Kennedy Chungu Palangwa from ZANERELA. 

ENDS 

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For more information or to arrange for interviews, contact: 

Felix Mwanza

National Director 

Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign 

Plot 11 Kalungu Crescent off Manchinchi Road 

Northmead, P.O Box 31048 

Lusaka, Zambia 

Mobile: +260 977 565644 

Email: felimwa@yahoo.com 

Carol Nawina Nyirenda 

Executive Director 

CITAMplus 

Mobile:+260 977 960043 

Email: carolnawina@gamil.com 

Kenly Sikwese 

Coordinator 

The African Community Advisory Board 

C/O P.O. Box 31100 Lusaka Zambia Tel. +260 966261218 Email. kenly.sikwese@afrocab.info