President Edgar Lungu made the announcement when launching the HIV Testing, Counseling and Treatment Day (HTCT) in Lusaka today, saying protecting life of overrides the human rights argument against mandatory testing.
The Head of State disclosed that Cabinet last night reached an agreement to make HIV testing, counseling and treatment compulsory and that there will be no debate about it.
“The HIV scourge has continued to pose one of the biggest threats to our country’s development. The Patriotic Front government under my leadership is up to the task and has embarked on a transformative shift through emphasizing HIV voluntary counseling and testing to HIV testing and treatment. Just yesterday when we sat in Cabinet, we had this subject HIV testing and treatment, I must confess that there are some colleagues who felt that this is contrary to Human Rights and rights to privacy. My position was that ‘no one has got a right to take his own life’ therefore to make sure that we must protect life in Zambia generally and across the board. So just as we test for malaria, we don’t consult you to consent whether you should be tested for malaria or not, we will do the same with HIV and AIDS,” President Lungu said.
“And we will counsel you and tell you that you have got this problem, you need to embark on treatment. That is what we are going to do, that is the Zambia position. So those of you who will be seeking medical help from our health institutions, we will not be questioning you whether you have tested for HIV and AIDS. If you are in a coma, we will do what we can to resuscitate you and when we resuscitate you, we will subject you to all the tests including HIV/AIDS and if we find you somehow positive, we will put you on treatment. That is the position of Zambia and its official, no debate about it.”
He also urged all Zambians to participate in the efforts of ending HIV/AIDS by going for testing even without getting sick.
“As we gather to launch the HIV Testing, Counseling, and Treatment day which was commemorated as the national voluntary counseling and Testing (VCT) day. The HIV Testing, Counseling and Treatment Day commonly known as the HTCT will be commemorated every year on the 15th day of August as a symbol of my government’s resolve to end AIDS in Zambia by the year 2030. This is a very serious commitment and I hope that our cooperating partners will continue to support us just as much as we will support ourselves,” President Lungu said.
“This broad decision prioritizes HIV testing and immediate commencement of retention of Anti-Retro-viral treatment to all Zambians living with HIV. We will not wait for people to fall sick before they can start life serving treatment. Let us take integrated health services by taking HIV services and treatment to all the communities in Zambia.”
President Lungu further directed Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya to find a way of compelling men to also go through HIV testing so that they could also know about their status.
“According to the Zambian demographic health survey of 2014, only 67% of the Zambia population knew their HIV status and HIV testing rates. And HIV testing rates for men remained lower than those for women. I know that women go to the maternity clinics are upheld of this test but most men because they do not have this opportunity of maternity, they don’t know their status. So Dr Chilufya, can you find a way of compelling men to also go through HIV testing so that we can also have higher percentage of our men knowing their status,” said President Lungu.
The 2017 theme for the HIV Testing, Counseling and Treatment Day is ‘Test and Treat, towards ending AIDS’.