Kenya's National AIDS Control Council and STI Control Program (NASCOP) is considering mandatory HIV testing for adults who seek medical care for conditions such as malaria, as well as all children, reports the Daily Nation.
Previously, only expectant women underwent compulsory testing. Children with unknown HIV status will also be tested regardless of the ailment for which they are seeking treatment, according NASCOP. Counselling will be offered to guardians and parents, who must give written consent for their children to be tested. This, said the head of NASCOP Peter Cherutich, would ensure total war against HIV/Aids.
Around 1.5 million Kenyans are estimated to be HIV positive. That is about 6.3 percent of the adult population. The rate is about mid-range for sub-Saharan Africa but the sheer numbers of infected Kenyans mean that only South Africa and Nigeria have more HIV-positive citizens on the continent, according to AVERT.
Kenya previously attempted to increase HIV testing through its Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) program. But many women do not want to risk "being viewed as promiscuous" and refuse to access services.
For the time being, "fears of mandatory testing in Kenya are premature, as Kenyan law currently bans such practices," reports Voice of America.
According to Dr. Andrew Suleh, National Chairman of the Kenya Medical Association, Kenya’s HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act (HAPCA) would have to be amended to allow mandatory testing. Suleh says Kenya's primary goal should be early testing of citizens. ... One interim solution, he says, would be to strongly encourage HIV testing when offering routine treatments for illnesses such as Malaria while allowing patients to opt out.
Because any new approaches would have to be aligned with Kenyan law, however, the nation's battle with HIV will continue to be waged strictly on a voluntary basis.
Kenya's government is considered moderate on gay rights. They were the first African nation to include gay and bisexual men in their national HIV strategy. Two pro-LGBT justices were confirmed to the Supreme Court in June.
But there has been a backlash against calls to decriminalize homosexuality in the East African nation, such as one cabinet minister's proposal to scrap the nation's sodomy laws. Last November, Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the mass arrests of gays at a political rally but later retracted his statements.
Some Background ...
KENYA: Pro-LGBT Justices Confirmed
Controversy in Kenya After Pro LGBT Nominees
Kenyan Prime Minister: "All Gays Should Be Arrested"
AIDS 2010: Joel Nana on African Gay/Bi Men, HIV
WATCH: CNN Surveys Gay Rights in SA, Kenya, Cuba
Kenyan Gays Demand Protection After Brutal Assault
Kenya: "Things are Changing in Favor of Gays"
Homosexuality is Un-African?