Former President Clinton Supports Compulsory HIV Testing in Countries With High Prevalence
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Tuesday said he supports mandatory HIV testing in countries with high prevalence provided they are willing to participate in the testing programs, can provide universal access to antiretroviral drugs and can ensure that HIV-positive residents would not experience discrimination, Reuters reports. "[W]e can save people's lives, and we can reduce the stigma," Clinton said during a briefing in London, adding, "There is no way we are going to reduce the spread of this epidemic without more testing because 90% of the people who are HIV-positive don't know it" (Reaney, Reuters, 3/28). He also said that compulsory testing would be a waste of money in countries with low HIV prevalence, but that when a country's prevalence rises above 5%, testing becomes an important resource in stemming the spread of the disease (Wilkinson, CNN.com, 3/29). "I think there needs to be a total rethinking of this testing position in the AIDS community and a real push for this," Clinton said.
Lesotho Test Case
Clinton on Tuesday also announced that Lesotho would be the first country to participate in a universal testing program, which is sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and is expected to launch this year. He said the Lesotho program could serve as a test case to determine whether providing universal access to rapid HIV tests and antiretrovirals can reduce the country's HIV prevalence. The program's $100 million budget will pay for 200 million tests, which cost between 49 cents and 65 cents each (Reuters, 3/28). "We must stop looking at testing as a burden, but say we're going to save your life. We must treat it as a public health issue ... without shame," Clinton said (CNN.com, 3/29). About 29% of adults in Lesotho are HIV-positive (globalhealthfacts.org, 3/29).