Zambian Bill to Mandate HIV Testing for Presidential Candidates Delayed
The Zambian cabinet is "split" over whether to introduce legislation that would force presidential candidates to have an HIV test before general elections this year, government sources said yesterday. Reuters reports that the bill, which was scheduled to be debated at an emergency session of Parliament on Friday, may not advance to the Parliament because politicians in the "deeply conservative" African nation "shy away" from talking about AIDS in public. The bill's "implications are enormous," a minister told Reuters, adding, "It would also mean that the next president could choose to submit those wishing to take up cabinet posts and top government jobs to AIDS tests, and this has many people deeply uncomfortable." Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, candidate of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy, on Wednesday "urged" fellow presidential hopefuls to have HIV tests in an effort to raise public awareness and ensure that Zambia's next leader is "medically fit." But Godfrey Miyanda, the Heritage Party candidate, rejected the proposed bill on Thursday, saying it was "discriminatory" and an "infringement of human rights." Miyanda questioned the timing of the legislation, noting that it would "defeat the fight against stigmatisation of those living with AIDS." In addition to the presidential testing mandate, the bill calls for a 20-year jail term for anyone who deliberately spreads HIV. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who has not yet provided a firm date for elections, has called AIDS the nation's biggest development challenge (Reuters, 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.