A new health bill that has just been passed in Botswana is counterproductive and a violation of human rights for people living with HIV according to the Director of BONELA, Uyapo Ndad.
Mr Ndad believes the new health bill will deter people from finding out their HIV status and it places the responsibility of the fight against HIV/AIDS on those who are HIV positive.
The bill authorities doctors to perform mandatory HIV tests on their patients and if they refuse, as is their right under the law, they can be dragged to court for not agreeing.
Whilst mandatory testing seems like a good idea so one knows their HIV status, should a government be allowed to force this upon its citizens if the law of the land says they do not have to agree with this? Seeing as this bill appears to have only been passed so the government can use the data for statistical purposes rather than getting its populace onto ARVs, i have to agree with Mr Ndad on this.
Should mandatory testing be put into effect worldwide? Personally i think it should if, and only if, the reason for doing this is to move people onto life saving drugs and to lessen their possibility of passing on the disease to others. If the reason for mandatory testing is only for statistical analysis then there is no way this should happen. People with HIV are not a statistic, they are real people with real feelings.
It’s hard to ascertain from this article what the true intent of this bill is. Is it to assure that Botswana knows the HIV positive status of its citizens in order to delegate funds and provide services? Or is it a sort of punitive measure against people with HIV?
Uyapo Ndadi is the Executive Director of Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) He states that this bill would violate people’s rights by mandatory testing. I certainly do not think that people should be brought into court if they refuse to be tested but I do think mandatory testing in order to offer treatment COULD be a good thing.
"Worst still, this bill, if it is passed into law, will turn people away from accessing health facilities. People are better off not knowing their HIV status if knowledge of it will mean loss of privacy and dignity if you are HIV positive," stated Ndadi. This quote concerns me. Saying knowledge of HIV status will cause a loss of privacy and dignity actually has little to do with this bill as if it’s the knowledge of knowing your HIV positive will equate to a loss of rights, then really, it would be the same whether you tested voluntarily or were forced to?
I do however strongly disagree with a clause in the bill that empowers doctors to test clients for HIV before surgical or dental procedures. If universal practices are adhered to, which they absolutely must be, the persons HIV status holds no relevance in dental or medical procedures.
In Ndadi’s argument he says this bill would violate international guidelines on HIV/AIDS and human rights that states public health, criminal and anti-discrimination legislation should prohibit mandatory HIV testing of targeted groups, including vulnerable groups. I don’t really see how mandatory testing of everyone would oppose this right. Testing specific groups, yes. Testing everyone, no. Again, I’m going off of the article, not the bill, which I have not read so some of my points may be wrong or mute.