The Zambian government on Monday backed down on its earlier decision to introduce mandatory HIV testing, saying testing will not be forced on citizens.
Last week, President Edgar Lungu declared that his government had introduced mandatory HIV testing and that anyone who visits a health facility for any ailment will be tested for HIV as well.
But the announcement caused an uproar, with some stakeholders saying it was against human rights as testing should be consented to by the individual.
But Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said in all HIV testing, the health practitioners will be seeking the consent of the patients and that patients will have the option of opting out if they do not want to be tested for HIV.
"Before any blood is drawn from your body, consent will be obtained and the tests or any kind of diagnosis explained to the patient. It is not like there will be police officers who will be arresting those people that will opt out but it is important to encourage everyone to know their HIV status," he said when he appeared on a live interview on state broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday evening.
He said the health practitioners have been trained to ensure that they adhered to the global standards and medical ethics on HIV testing.
Zambia is among countries in sub-Saharan Africa burdened with the HIV pandemic with 1.2 million people of its population currently living with the virus.
(Xinhua News Agency, August 21, 2017)