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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

      

HIV Mandatory Test May Lead to False Security – Zaran

Misozi Gondwe
Lusaka

MANDATORY testing may lead to false security in the military that an HIV/AIDS free environment has been created, Zambia Aids Law Research and Advocacy Network (ZARAN) president Kaubmu Mwondela has said.

Briefing the press on Tuesday, Mwondela said the mandatory testing required by the defence forces was inhuman.

He said the statement by director general for the Defence Force Medical Services (DFMA) James Simpungwe on March 4 that the military would conduct mandatory HIV screening at recruitment and only negative ones would be recruited was wrong.

Mwondela said mandatory testing had not demonstrated individual or public health benefits and could not result in significant negative outcomes for those testing positive.

He said UNAIDS had researched on voluntary testing and their findings indicated that it did not on its own help change people's behaviour to prevent infecting others.

    

Mwondela said the question of mandatory screening and exclusion of people with HIV had been litigated upon in the other countries and Zambia would do well to take a leaf.

"If it has been done elsewhere then it is not peculiar to Zambia and we can also do it," he said.

Mwondela said mandatory testing was not a novel in Zambia because other countries had addressed themselves to the issue and were recording success.

He said reports by USAID revealed that out of 93 per cent of militaries in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Botswana, Angola and Zambia, 80 per cent rejected all HIV positive military job applicants.

He said the report also concludes that asymptotic HIV positive men and women were able to fulfil military duties and had a right to be engaged in the work for which they were trained.

Mwondela said unless Zambia's response to HIV/AIDS respects, protects and promotes the right of infected and affected persons, the pandemic would continue to ravage and its effects would continue to be felt.

He said the purpose of any medical examination in the context of pre-recruitment procedures should always be to ascertain fitness for the job.

"Unless the military can demonstrate the unfitness of an HIV positive applicant to carry out military activities for which such applicants were otherwise qualified, the military would be discriminating unfairly," he said.

    

Mwondela said Zambians had fought long and hard to rid themselves of discrimination.

Clement Mufuzi from Network for Zambian People Living with Aids (NZPA) said it was unfortunate that Zambia still had people who thought that way about HIV.

He said all efforts Zambians had made towards eradication of discrimination would be futile if such policies were implemented.