HIV home testing; who is fooling who?

Between the law and the English, it is not not clear which of the two is the Ministry of Health and Wellness trying to twist around. This follows a debate on whether Home testing is prohibited by the law or not.

Section 119 of the Public Health Act reads, “A person shall not carry out HIV test unless the test is carried out in a centre, structure or health facility approved for the purpose of carrying out HIV testing”

After the heated debate led by attorney Uyapo Ndadi, the Ministry issued out a press release saying that home HIV self-testing is allowed under the Public Health Act.

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been inundated with many enquiries on whether it is legally permissible for individuals to do HIV self-testing. Section 119 of the Public Health Act, read with the definition of β€œHIV test” in section 2 and section 105 (4) of the Act, indicates that the law only prohibits diagnostic HIV testing, if conducted in structures/ facilities that have not been approved by the Minister.”

Section One hundred and Five states that “HIV testing may only be undertaken with the consent of the person or their parent (if they are under 16) unless the test falls into one of the mandatory testing categories described below. On section two (2) the act stipulates that ” “HIV test” means a medical test, approved by the Director, which determines whether or not a person is infected with HIV”

Moreover, the Ministry tried to clarify a difference between HIV testing and HIV screening, ‘The difference between screening and diagnostic HIV tests is that the screening test only predicts the presence of HIV in an individual while the diagnostic HIV test confirms the presence of HIV in an individual. Diagnostic HIV test results are therefore, regarded as valid and conclusive, while screening tests are preliminary and inconclusive. If the results of a screening test are positive, a diagnostic test is done to confirm the results. The diagnostic test is conducted by a medical practitioner or an approved health care worker, in an approved structure or facility, to ensure the privacy of patients and to avail the necessary counselling, prior to and after the testing. HIV self-testing therefore, falls under the ambit of HIV screening tests.”

However, various sources define HIV testing and HIV screening as one and the same thing, “HIV testing, also called HIV screening, is the only way to know if you have the virus. Several types of tests check your blood or other body fluids to see whether you’re infected. Most can’t spot HIV right away, because it takes time for your body to make antibodies or for enough of the virus to grow inside you.” one source wrote.

Ndadi is of the view that the government should stop playing hide and seek and do the right thing by ammending the laws as they are now overdue, instead of playing around with English language.

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