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UNAIDS To Introduce HIV Testing Guidelines in India That Recommend Provider-Initiated Testing, Counseling
UNAIDS in March plans to introduce new HIV testing guidelines in India that recommend health care providers initiate testing and counseling, the Hindustan Times reports. Under the country's current HIV testing policy, tests are provided only when people request them. Requests for HIV tests in general are low, and about one in 10 HIV-positive people in India are aware of their status, the Times reports. The new guidelines emphasize informed consent and counseling before an HIV test can be administered, according to the Times. Denis Broun, UNAIDS India coordinator, said the group does not "support mandatory testing. Testing must be confidential, include counseling and occur only with informed consent." He added that no one will be "forced into testing, as the rules of opting out are very clear." In addition, the new testing guidelines will "phenomenally" increase the number of people receiving HIV tests in the country, Broun said, adding that the guidelines "aim to reach the nine in 10 undiagnosed [HIV-positive] people who miss out on treatment." However, some human rights advocates have said that India does not have the health infrastructure to provide treatment and care for the thousands of people who will test positive for HIV, the Times reports. "The government cannot test people and send them away," Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz Foundation India Trust, said, adding, "India first needs to ensure proper counseling, upgrade voluntary testing and counseling centers, and set up the required facilities in states that have no health infrastructure or social security for people to fall back on." Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People, said, "Before scaling up HIV testing, the government must ensure there is no stigma and discrimination" against HIV-positive people. He added that the government "must also provide assured access to treatment and care services." According to Broun, provider-initiated testing has increased the number of people receiving HIV tests in several East African countries, including Botswana, Malawi and Uganda (Sharma, Hindustan Times, 2/1).
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