Discussion of Involuntary HIV Testing Sparks Debate in Latvia
Discussion by doctors at a hospital in eastern Latvia over the possibility of mandatory HIV testing for some patients has drawn the ire of activists, Agence France-Presse reports. The call for compulsory testing stems from a recent incident in which an HIV-positive individual "refused" to divulge his condition to doctors at a hospital, thus "putting [them] and nurses at risk" for contracting the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. The hospital's top physician, Jazeps Korsaks, was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying that doctors at the facility have decided to conduct involuntary HIV testing in cases of emergencies and on people from "high-risk" groups, such as drug addicts or prisoners. Patients refusing to take the test could be denied surgery, regional health official Edgars Zarembo said. However, Korsaks' colleague, who was not named, said that "there has been no involuntary HIV testing in [the] hospital and [there] won't be," attributing Korsaks' earlier statement to the "frustration of the local medical staff." AIDS activists objected to the idea of involuntary testing, arguing that it "is a symptom of the paranoia concerning the disease." They added that compulsory testing might add to the disease's stigma and frighten people away from seeking medical treatment for any disease. "Patients here sense they will run into problems if they tell anyone, even doctors," Janis Polis, an AIDS educator with the U.N. Development Program, said. Latvian law prohibits mandatory HIV testing except in "certain criminal cases," but doctors say a "hole" in the law "leaves them at risk." Welfare Ministry officials said they will not grant any request to conduct mandatory testing, but "welcomed" discussion about possible amendments to the country's law (Agence France-Presse, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.