Govt rejects HIV mandatory testing

By Daniel Phiri

GOVERNMENT says it will not follow the example of Zambia by instituting mandatory HIV/Aids testing adding that it’s a violation of human rights.

Zambia last month had announced that it was mandatory for people to be tested for HIV/Aids as part of its response strategy to curb the complicated disease. However, after a wave of massive opposition from human rights organisations and civic groups, the decision was reversed.

Addressing Online and digital journalists at a workshop organised by the National Aids Council (NAC) recently, head of Aids and TB unit Dr Owen Mugurungi said mandatory testing is nowhere near the cards and is a failed initiative.

“We are not going to do mandatory testing it was tried some 20 years ago but it failed and it also drives people down and is an infringement of people’s rights.

Online Journalists Follow proceedings at a NAC workshop in Mutare

“As a country we will not go there, Zambia tried it recently and they have since retracted it after too much pressure,” he said

HIV/Aids testing is a key component to the response strategies that the country is currently employing against the disease.

Zimbabwe is targeting to end Aids by 2030 and one of the ways it hopes to achieve this is through the 90.90.90 Strategy.

The strategy entails that by 2020, 90 percent of people should know their HIV status, 90 percent of HIV positive people receive medication and 90 percent of people on ART will have viral load suppression.

However, according to statistics, the country is doing well on the last two 90 percent components but is being weighed down by the first component which is testing.

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2015/16 the country is facing challenges when it comes to testing men for HIV/Aids because of their health seeking behaviour.

The survey further puts that nearly half of young people in the country don’t k now their HIV/Aids status.

Testing component is a very important part of the response to HIV/Aids as it enables people to know their status so that those in need of medication are rolled onto the program.

It also helps to measure the effectiveness of the various programs that have been employed as part of the country response strategy.

Currently there are nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV/ Aids in the country and only 1 029 719 are receiving medication.

Zimbabwe is however pinning hopes on the introduction of Self-testing kits to achieve the first 90 percent component, however questions have been raised on the issue of feedback and follow-up.

Dr Mugurungi however said “we are working on how to make sure there is a referral system and links to the kits when we distribute them so that we can get feedback and reporting.

“But we don’t think people can test themselves and when they find that they are positive will keep quiet, they will take some action, but we are working on the feedback systems.

 

 

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