There is an apt West Africa saying that, to get at the root cause of the murder, one must find the blacksmith who made the machete. It seems the government ignored this saying when the Minister of State for Special Programmes through Legal Notice No. 80 of 2010 commenced section 24 of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act from the 1st Day of December 2010. Despite this years theme on World Aids day being ‘Universal access and human rights’, transmission of HIV has now been criminalized by this statute.
Testing and Consent
All persons are encouraged to get tested for HIV/AIDS. This is because by knowing your status you will be able to make informed choices, protect yourself and others from transmission, get proper treatment and support in order to live a full and enjoyable life.
In discussing this two issues arise:
Every person has a right to make decisions for himself about their own bodies therefore they should be made aware of the basis of the test and what the results would mean before the test is done. This usually happens during pre testing and post testing counseling. This means that the person should understand what is about to take place during and after testing and consent to taking the test.
The HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act (HAPCA) however gives instances where consent will not be required:
- In order to perform emergency treatment
- When the testing is being done in blood tissue and organ donations
- Where the patient is mentally ill consent will be required from a legal guardian
Many questions have been asked especially in the workplace as to whether an employer can force his employees or applicants for employment to go for an HIV test.
Employers are not allowed to request employees or applicants for employment to take an HIV test. However the employer may be justified under certain circumstances for example if the employees are health care workers like doctors and nurses because through their work it is likely that they may infect the patients they are handling. Another example where an employee would be justified to take tested where the same would assist in the fair distribution of employee benefits.
An individual’s HIV status is private and should not be disclosed to others without his/her consent. When confidentiality is guaranteed then voluntary testing will increase and many people will get information and medical treatment they need to live healthy and longer lives.
The HAPCA guarantees this right by providing under section 22 that giving out information concerning a person’s HIV status or any other related issue without their permission is an offence.
There are however circumstances under which disclosure is allowed and these are outlined in section 22 of the HAPCA:
- With the consent of the person
- If the person has died, with the consent of a close family member or administrator of the estate
- If person is a child, consent to disclose is obtained from parent/guardian
- If the person has a disability, guardian can give consent
- If required by the court
- For study and research and even so such disclosure should not lead to identification of the person whom it relates.