Is compulsory HIV testing a solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is not a secret that sub-Saharan Africa is the epicentre of poverty in the world. In fact the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently voiced concerns that the region might not even be able to attain any of the poverty busting goals as articulated in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) document.

One of the major causes of this state of affairs is the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is causing havoc by crippling the productive workforce (“bread winners”) leaving behind a multitude of helpless and hopeless orphans and thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa seems to lead in the spread of this deadly virus. This means that unless the problem of HIV/AIDS is adequately addressed, our generation and indeed even generations to come, shall continue to be stuck in the quagmire of poverty.

And we all know that poverty is not something to be proud of. Poverty reduces human dignity and no human being was destined to be in a state of poverty, let alone for the rest of their lives.

Now, what can we do to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa? I think we have heard about programmes promoting the ABC approach to combat the spread of the virus. Lets remind each other; the acronym ABC stands for Abstain, Be faithful or Condomise. Some people have added M to the acronym to come up with the ABCM approach. I hope you guess what the M stands for… Then there are programmes promoting Voluntary HIV Testing, not forgetting the free distribution of Anti-RetroViral (ARV) drugs to those living with HIV/AIDS.

However, all these initiatives have not slowed down the spread of the pandemic. Does this mean that these solutions are not counteracting the spread of HIV/AIDS? Or maybe we are merely treating symptoms of a bigger problem?

The answers belong to the reader but in my opinion, it seems they are not working. I think its time we start using “radical” approaches otherwise our generation is doomed to extinction.

Can compulsory HIV testing therefore be a lasting solution to this problem? I recently read in the papers about some Namibian official advocating for compulsory HIV testing at a recent HIV/AIDS workshop in Windhoek. Personally, I totally agree with him that there should be legislation in each country that should make it mandatory for every citizen to be tested of the virus. I support him for the following reasons:

  • If every citizen is tested, governments will have “real” statistics on the number of people infected and thus plan properly on how they could be put on life prolonging anti-retroviral treatment.
  • Each citizen will know their status and therefore plan their individual lives properly. This will help individuals not to live in an “ostrich” state by pretending that they do not have the virus yet they don’t exactly know their sero-status.
  • Voluntary testing has failed to entice many people to go for the test. Just ask yourself on the number of people who have gone for HIV testing voluntarily. Personally, have you already done so?
  • There is potential that those who know that they are positive and they deliberately infect others, may be brought for prosecution. Do you support this?

Opponents to compulsory HIV testing may state that this is tantamount to violation of the right to privacy. But what about the right to life? HIV/AIDS infection is a threat to life and therefore all measures have to be taken to make sure that life is protected and preserved. I feel the right to life is above the right to privacy.

What do you think? Feel free to comment and lets remember that together we can combat this scourge and possibly later have an HIV-free generation in sub-Saharan Africa.



Anonymous Sunday, November 11, 2007 2:42:00 PM  

Excellent posting. There is some independent expert opinion on this issue:

But "The Boys" Jim Kim, Bill Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, and Stephen Lewis have got the ears of your leaders.

[him] moderator


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