HRW Criticizes Countries for Proposing, Applying Coercive HIV Testing; Calls on WHO, UNAIDS To Update Guidelines
Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticized India, Saudi Arabia and other countries for proposing or applying coercive HIV testing and called on the World Health Organization and UNAIDS to update their 2004 guidelines on HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, AFP/Today Online reports (AFP/Today Online, 8/10). According to an HRW release, an "increasing number" of countries are applying or proposing mandatory and discriminatory HIV testing programs that do not guarantee confidentiality (HRW release, 8/10). The coercive HIV testing programs are increasing stigma and fear of the disease and contributing to its spread, according to HRW. "It is critical that we expand access to HIV testing," Joe Amon, director of HRW's HIV/AIDS program, said, adding, "But testing programs will fail if they do not also provide people protection from stigma, discrimination and abuse." HRW cited abuses -- which range from mandatory HIV testing of students applying for scholarships to testing of journalists, foreign workers and workers in the tourism industry and beauty parlors -- in China, India, Malawi, Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone. In Saudi Arabia, HIV testing is mandatory for foreign workers, and if they test positive, they are locked in hospital rooms and then deported, according to HRW. In addition, the government in Goa, India, has proposed that all couples intending to marry undergo HIV testing. "There is little or no evidence that HIV testing by itself has any impact on this deadly epidemic," Amon said, adding, "But voluntary HIV testing programs that respect rights, ensure confidentiality and are linked to counseling and treatment have been enormously successful." The report calls on WHO and UNAIDS to clarify that HIV testing should be connected to medical care and counseling (AFP/Today Online, 8/10).
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