Mandatory HIV testing criticized

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


VARIOUS groups in Mindanao met the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) mandatory testing with protest.

Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) proposed on revising the existing law on voluntary HIV testing to mandatory.

Alliance Against Aids in Mindanao Inc. (Alagad-Mindanao) project director Mike Mahinay said the proposal would be too impossible, as DOH itself has failed to fully implement the existing law on HIV testing.

He criticized the DOH for jumping into making the test mandatory, “when it hasn’t maximized the massive education on HIV-Aids, on what it has done on the availability of the treatment to the people living with HIV (PLHIV) and if the testing is within the people’s reach.”

“Has DOH looked into these things first before trying out something big again?” Mahinay said.

The government, Mahinay told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone, is not prepared in making the HIV-testing mandatory, citing its failure on doing something on the issues he raised earlier.

“If they could do those things, then they could probably solve the increasing number of HIV cases in the country,” he said.

Maia Poblete, executive committee member of Pagbantog Kagayan, an advocate group dedicated in denouncing terrorism and other violent activities in the city through art activities, sees DOH’s plan as a source of a discrimination battle between the PLHIV and the society.

"It will just add to the discrimination to the current stigma the society is giving to the PLHIV. Whenever people will merely want to get tested, society immediately frowns upon them. How much more if this is mandatory?" she said.

DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said the mandatory screening may help prevent PLHIV mothers from infecting their children during their prenatal visit to the hospital. Also, it may help in slowly decreasing the steep increase of HIV cases in the country.

However, Poblete said this is not a hundred percent solution to the current problem, but the right information dissemination and education remains the key to it.

The DOH–Northern Mindanao, in its report, said there are 30 new HIV cases in the region.

With this, City Human Resource (CHR)-Investigation Division chief Vic Aleria said that mandatory HIV-testing should be “treated mutual.”

"It may be a prevention for the increasing number of HIV cases, it may not be. Although there is stereotyping when people get themselves tested, but I believe there is confidentiality and respect from the establishment, company or hospital naman eh," he said.

"The mandatory HIV-testing should be a compromise between the people who want to get tested and the people who will test. If we put it in the office sector, if the company will make a policy where there will be exemptions out from the results, obviously, there is discrimination already. That is where CHR comes in," he added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 21, 2014.

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