The Health ministry is considering mandatory HIV tests for all emergency admissions (see P10).
Last year a trial at Kenyatta National Hospital found that 11.4 per cent of emergency patients tested positive compared to a national prevalence of 4.6 per cent. Researchers in Kenya have also found that 33.7 per cent of HIV-positive people are not aware of their status.
Is the right to privacy being broached by HIV tests in accident and emergency departments? Medical staff need to know if a patient has any underlying conditions before treatment.
If an unconscious person needed a blood transfusion, they would first be tested to identify their blood group. No-one would quarrel with that so why question an HIV test? Moreover last year all hospital admissions were tested for Covid and no-one complained.
There is of course some residual stigma attached to HIV but it is better to know for certain whether you are positive or negative. If you turn out to be positive, you can start taking anti-retrovirals and prolong your life.
So let’s accept mandatory HIV tests for emergency admissions but ensure that there is proper counselling available if someone turns out to be HIV-positive.