Compulsory HIV Test Disputed

Compulsory HIV Test DisputedCompulsory HIV Test Disputed

The Head of the AIDS Control Office at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Abbas Sedaghat, explained why compulsory HIV tests, especially before employment, military service, immigration, and marriage makes no sense and does not help control AIDS.

“Testing for HIV is only diagnostic and does not stop an epidemic,” he said, Alef News Agency reported.

HIV infection is not contagious in the normal sense, and could only be transmitted through sexual contact or sharing of drug needles. Mass HIV testing sounds straightforward but is extremely costly, logistically unwieldy, and incapable of identifying everyone who is infected. It is fraught with problems that could be avoided through voluntary tests and guaranteeing the confidentiality of the results.

Sedaghat pointed to the efforts to curb HIV and its spread in the country.

He said behavioral health counseling centers have been set up under the supervision of medical universities nationwide. Services at these centers are free, and people with high-risk behavior can obtain the necessary information and advice by telephone or in person at the discretion of advisers. They would get free HIV testing if needed.

The AIDS counseling centers can be reached on the hotline 118.

A campaign ‘I, Too, Will Get Tested’ has been launched by NGOs, encouraging people to get alerted in a timely manner and receive necessary intervention voluntarily.

HIV is spread mainly through sexual contact or sharing injection drug equipment such as needles with an HIV-infected person.Logistically, it is impossible to take blood samples from everyone, test them and give results on the same day. Even if the authorities manage to trace all infected people and isolate them, this would not prevent sexual contact between the uninfected and those who are not screened.

 Costly Process

Even if logistic obstacles are eliminated, no mandatory testing program can help identify all HIV-infected people. The available HIV-testing kits work by detecting not the virus itself but antibodies which the person’s immune system produces following HIV infection. It takes up to 12 weeks or sometimes more for the HIV antibodies to be produced and become detectable in blood samples. This is the window period during which the infected person continues to test negative.  

In any case periodic testing of the entire population is prohibitively expensive in terms of staff time and transport of the blood samples. In most developing countries, testing the whole population just once would cost more than what the government is able to spend on healthcare in a year.