UN for confidential HIV tests, counselling

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 22:

United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and World Health Organisation (WHO) today issued its policy statement on HIV testing that supports confidential counselling and consent to protect patients from stigma and discrimination. “There must be a parallel effort to build an environment of acceptance and non-stigmatisation for people who test HIV positive,” stated a joint statement clarifying its position following a number of articles which appeared in the media on the issue. According to the statement, HIV testing must include improved protection from stigma and discrimination as well as access to integrated prevention, treatment and care services.

“There is a need for interventions to check the increasing number of people who will require HIV treatment. HIV testing and counselling play a pivotal role in its treatment and prevention,” stated a joint release issued here today. UNAIDS/ WHO policy document recommends four types of HIV testing that includes counselling and testing which is initiated by people who want to learn their HIV status and come forward voluntarily. The document states that diagnostic HIV testing is indicated whenever a person shows symptoms that are consistent with HIV-related diseases or AIDS to aid clinical diagnosis and management. It also states that a routine offer of HIV testing by health care providers should be made to all patients being assessed for a sexually transmitted infection, and patients who are symptomatic being seen in setting where HIV is prevalent and antiretroviral treatment is available.

The document states that UNAIDS/WHO support mandatory screening for HIV and other blood borne viruses of all blood units that are destined for transfusion or for manufacturing blood products. Mandatory screening of donors is required prior to all procedures involving transfer of body fluids or body parts, such as artificial insemination, corneal grafts and organ transplant. The current reach of HIV testing services is very poor as the countries having low and middle income sources is only 10 per cent of those who need voluntary counselling and testing have access to it. The conditions under which people undergo HIV testing must be anchored in a humanistic approach which protects their human rights and pays due respect to ethical principles.

SC notices on AIDS test

Kathmandu: Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the Supreme Court order to some government authorities to formulate a policy for allowing people to get married only after exchanging the HIV/AIDS test certificates, the apex court today issued show cause notices to the authorities. A single bench of Justice Anup Raj Sharma issued the order following a hearing today. The bench also told the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, Ministries of Health, Women, Children and Social Welfare, and the Centre for Control of HIV/AIDS and Sexually-transmitted Diseases to submit written explanations within 15 days. The order came in response to the PIL filed by the chairperson of Divyashwari Society, Januka Bhattarai. She had moved the apex court on April 13 seeking its order to authorities to formulate a policy to address the issue. The petitioner pointed out that the matter should be addressed as 60,248 people had been affected by HIV/AIDS. The petitioner added that death rate has become higher due to the ineffective mechanism of the government to control HIV/AIDS. —HNS