Press Statement for Immediate Release
18/04/2016 15:55 PM
Pacesetters Youth Network is troubled by the claims and reports of some primary schools in Dzivarasekwa Harare in collaboration with a local organization and a health institution to undertake HIV/AIDS testing to primary school children who are at most below the age of 16. We note the seriousness of problems with which the HIV/AIDS pandemic is concomitant to however we are of the view that forcing someone to undergo medical testing of any kind is a violation of privacy and human rights. No matter how grave the situation is, HIV-testing should always be on voluntary basis if we want to see the required results.
In a normal HIV/AIDS testing, the success of the counselling session and the measures that follow thereafter like treatment plans, are premised on how ready the client is to know their status. If one is forced, they may not be able to deal with their results should they turn out to be positive. Thus as a youth based organization, we are worried that young people of primary school going age will not be able to comprehend the meaning of the results or might face stigma from fellow young pupils.
We are convinced that the testing is similar to practices where patients are compulsorily tested as those school children whose parents would not have signed the “consent letter” will still be tested. It is well established that HIV testing that is done without patient consent not only is unethical but also can be actively harmful to the patient and counterproductive with respect to prevention efforts. Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) enables individuals to deal constructively with the possibility that they might be infected with HIV. HIV and Aids have many issues like stigma, which makes it difficult to equate them with other diseases.
In our long held view VCT includes good-quality pretest and post-test counselling and proper referral to follow-up services, which enable clients to (1) prepare for the possibility that the test results could be positive; (2) carefully prepare strategies to mobilize support from a potentially hostile social environment; and (3) become acquainted with the concept of “living positively with HIV” AND to this end Pacesetters Youth Network notes with concern that the process being undertaken in Dzivarasekwa will bring more problems for both the kids, parents and guardians who are not prepared to deal with results of the test.
The network believes that mandatory HIV testing is inadequate and unethical, and by no means should it be considered a “simple” shortcut to getting suspected HIV-positive patients to help prevent the spread of HIV to others. HIV testing needs to be part of a “package” of support and care services. These need to begin at the service centres, in the hospital and extend into the community.
We are further convinced as Pacesetters Youth Network that the move is unethical, just as it is in contravention of basic human rights and should immediately stopped. Everywhere we are championing the right to choose thus, obligatory testing especially in young innocent children is not a possibility.
For More Information Contact
Ms Victoria Chiyanike
Pacesetters Youth Network
Call: +263 734 640 511