GOVERNMENT says 81 per cent of admissions resulting in deaths at UTH are HIV related.
And President Edgar Lungu’s press aide Amos Chanda says compulsory HIV testing policy is final and will not be rescinded.
Speaking at a joint press briefing in Lusaka, health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya said this resulted in trends of allowing voluntarism to take precedence over knowing one’s status.
…81 per cent of admissions at UTH which result in mortality are HIV related, why? Because we allow voluntarism to take precedence over the need for us to know our status and be protected from ill health. So there are people who repeatedly come to UTH with opportunistic infections and because they have said they will not test for HIV, they are not started on ART and the health systems have a burden, we create orphans and widows. And it’s very important to emphasise that the UNAIDS Global Fast Track strategy to ensure that everybody accesses HIV health services requires that we test all citizens, we test 90 per cent of citizens,
Dr Chilufya said.
He disclosed that infections in females aged between 15 and 24 had doubled in the recent past.
“New infections in the age group 15 years to 24 years, females, has doubled, that is a big threat to the development of this country and to the very existence of this country because if the females of 15 to 24 years old have doubled new infections, then what we are going to see is a generation of older individuals who will be positive in the next five to ten years, that means that the nation will not have the healthy and productive citizens that are required to drive the social and economic agenda,” Dr Chilufya said.
“The young men of 35 to 45 years, infections have doubled. So government had to take decisions to protect the adolescents, to protect the youths and young adults to ensure that the very existence of this nation is assured. So for those who are worried about our human rights ‘I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know’, your partner also has a right not to get infected, your child also has a right not to get infected. And this responsible government will not allow smoldering guns on the streets just infecting innocent people. There are people who know their status today and they will go ahead and infect others and in other countries, that is a criminal offense.”
He insisted that President Lungu was determined to build a healthy nation.
“The shift from voluntary counseling and testing has been informed from the shift that we have gathered over the years. National building involves investment in the health of your people, protecting the people from ill health,” Dr Chilufya said.
He challenged those opposing the compulsory HIV testing to always think about the rights of the people they would infect.
If you think it is your right not to know your status, how about the right of the partner you are going to infect? That partner doesn’t have the right to remain negative? How about the rights of a child who is not born? Doesn’t that child have a right not to be born positive? We cannot be selfish and focus on ourselves. So as a responsible government, we are going to protect all citizens. In our countries, infecting another person with HIV is a criminal offense. All we are saying is that know your status and if you are positive, we will start you on treatment. If we start you on treatment, we will reduce your viral load through that treatment and when it is reduced, the capacity to infect the next person is significantly reduced if not zeroed,
Dr Chilufya said.
He also said mandatory testing was not new as it had applied to pregnant women for some years.
“This is not even new, when we introduced the option B Plus programme for pregnant women in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, what did we do? All pregnant women who were coming to antenatal clinics were tested for HIV and those who were positive were started on ART,” Dr Chilufya added.
“So these are public health decisions that must be taken. The testing that shall be done will be routine testing. If you get into a facility and you have pneumonia, and we think that that pneumonia is associated with HIV, we will test you for HIV.”
Government would place HIV test kits in public places to allow people to test themselves in the privacy of their homes, according to Dr Chilufya.
And Chanda said the policy was final and would not be rescinded.
This morning the President was going through the texts and reactions and he was saying, if we hear that in the next room you are preparing to commit suicide in the comfort of your home, we shall violate your right of privacy and independence of your home because suicide is an offense, it is one of those offenses where you are punished for not succeeding, it is like treason…so the President takes this AIDS thing in that context that if the age group 15-24 when the AIDS infection rates are going down and it is doubling, matters of public policy require that a democratically elected president like him will declare public policy measures that he deems suitable…It is a closed chapter, the policy has been proclaimed, we are now in the implementation phase and I think that very soon, the minister will be announcing to you the results of this. I thought I should say that because there are people who think that they can create a debate around that,