HIV Testing Policy For Pregnant Women Could Cause Human Rights Issues

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Although it is good news that Botswana has reduced its mother-to-child HIV transmission rate to less than 4%, the country's "system of testing a pregnant woman for HIV unless she objects can be problematic from a human rights standpoint," Pat Daoust, director of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS Campaign, writes in a Boston Globe letter to the editor in response to a recent Globe article.

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A recent PHR study in Botswana found that although a "majority of those interviewed are in favor of opt-out testing and identify it as a positive way for women to obtain antiretroviral drugs, some said that for women who are found to be HIV-positive, the testing can result in discrimination and greater risk of violence from partners and family members," according to Daoust.

However, "strictly voluntary testing has shown great promise while safeguarding human rights," Daoust adds. "Botswana is a relatively wealthy country with a fairly functional health system," Daoust writes, concluding that "most African hospitals and clinics lack basics like electricity, essential medicines and, most important, a trained doctor or nurse to care for and counsel women" (Daoust, Boston Globe, 9/6).

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