News clipping – Mail and Guardian online – 14 February 2011
Activists welcome HIV tests at school
Children’s rights experts and activists have welcomed government proposals to offer HIV tests in schools. These tests would not be compulsory and would be offered in the first instance at secondary schools only, the basic education department said in a clarifying statement.
The department’s statement said some hostility had met its recent announcement of HIV counseling and testing at schools, with some media reports suggesting the tests would be compulsory and include primary schools.
The testing would be for secondary school learners, teachers, school support staff and parents and would include screenings for a range of chronic diseases, the department said.
Children’s rights expert Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen told the Mail & Guardian that voluntary testing is permitted by legislation.
Sloth-Nielsen was consulted by the department on its testing plan. A professor at the University of the Western Cape, her appointment to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was announced last week.
Bukelwa Voko, spokesperson for the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (Acess), said the organization fully supported HIV testing at schools but was concerned about follow-up.
Voko said that there was still stigma around HIV and cautioned that if any testing did take place it should be done with the “utmost confidentiality and discretion.”
By: Ryan Hoffmann