Monday, February 7, 2011

HIV testing in Schools in South Africa

South Africa is going to start offering voluntary HIV testing in classrooms. The two main challenges that are being encountered are consent and confidentiality. In April of 2010 South Africa enacted a national voluntary HIV testing and counseling (VCT) campaign with the goal of testing 15 million South Africans by April of 2011. It is thought that 3 percent of South Africans under the age of 18 are HIV positive. Advocates for school testing claim that it will encourage students to get HIV tests in the future, will allow those infected to get access to care sooner and will encourage discussion about HIV. Opponents to the testing claim that HIV testing may be traumatic for students as young as 12. Additionally, there is concern that if the testing is scaled up to all of South Africa there will not be sufficient resources or personnel to implement the program effectively and confidentially.

To date, the program has been conducted in select schools and parents were notified about the testing in advance and were able to prevent their child from being tested if they wanted. Children have been counseled and tested individually. In schools where testing is offered, 90% of students have elected to have the test done. Measures have been taken to ensure that confidentiality is maintained regarding who elects to test and particularly test results. If a child does test positive, they are counseled, escorted to a clinic for testing (in a discrete manner) and are offered counseling for disclosing to a parent or guardian.

Hannah Harrison

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