16 August 2017

Zambia: Compulsory HIV Testing Will Attract More Stigma, Discrimination

Photo: The Citizen
Patient being tested for HIV (file photo).

I am yet to read the full statement on the issue of making the testing for HIV mandatory.

From what l am seeing on social media it seems people are very excited and some making foolish jokes about it.

The problem in Zambia is that we make jokes about everything. Yes humor is food for the soul. However believe me some of it is just childish and stupid.

People make fun of people who face different challenges. The poor, physically challenged, mentally challenged and people who have HIV. My heart bleeds when l see this.

Some people use jokes as a new face of stigma. In social media people have found a way of getting at others. This is not wise but foolishness and lack of reasoning.

When the news about making HIV testing compulsory broke Instead of seeing a real debate about the pros and cons. All l could see were childish jokes. To me stigmatisation has already started.

I know it is important for one to know not only their HIV status just like any health status. But l think the first things we need to do is to work on the mindsets of everyone.

Making or forcing people means we have failed on the part of education. Making it mandatory means we have no capacity to teach our young people about preventive methods.

You can't force people to go for HIV testing. It should come from them. Then as l said education.

Putting fear in people is Do a good preventive methodology. It will just make people fear to go to the hospital even when they have a simple toothache.

We should put all our energies in dealing with issues of stigma and discrimination. We should put more effort in research and help find the cure. We should try to seek to deal with preventive measures like the control of drinking places which are probably the breeding places for HIV.

Further more we should seek to create decent jobs for our young people. Night Clubs, bars will put our young girls at risk.

These are the things we should be talking about. Not programs which are just copied and pasted in our country. Some of these foreign programs don't have anything good for our people. So we ought to be careful.

In some of these countries a referendum would be called to determine something like the issue at hand.

But here it is just copy and paste. What next after this mandatory HIV and testing? Stigma and discrimination as people will be required to go with test certificate when looking for a job or school place.

All this is happening in a number of countries. So for me it is a shame and lack of reasoning by those who are in the fore front of this law or whatever you wanna call it.

Families will be torn apart, society will be full of stigma and the country will be a big Court which will sentence people to death.

Policies and rules are nothing. Therapy, education and not putting fear in people are more important.

And those of you using jokes and social media as a way of getting at people with different challenges or HIV status. Shame on you.

The author is a PhD candidate-Political, Gender and Transnational Studies at the International Postgraduate Centre (IPC), Faculty of Social Sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt


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