MPs reject free AIDS testing; say health personnel must learn to keep quiet
Members of Parliament yesterday rejected an opportunity, offered by the Ghana AIDS Commission asking them to undergo a voluntary HIV/AIDS testing.
Acting director in charge of Policy and Planning at the Commission, Dr. Joseph Amuzu failed in his attempt to woo the lawmakers popularly referred to as honourables to take the test, for free.
Using the example of Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin who voluntary tested in public, Dr Amuzu tried to cajole the MPs, observing that because MPs are revered, accepting the opportunity would motivate many to undergo voluntary counselling and testing.
But the MPs rejected his offer outright.
The MPS feared their status – either positive or negative – could be leaked to the media. This could even be the least of their worries; the legislators are very much concerned the media might misrepresent the facts and misinform the public about the results which could lead to stigmatization.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, who outlined the uneasiness of his colleagues, suggested:
‘Probably we can arrange outside the public hearing to try and see if you can bring [the test kits] in Parliament.’
‘But the only problem we have is that those who do the testing may not keep medical information confidential,’ he stressed to justify the MPs’ stance.
Mr Agyamang Manu defended the position, explaining, ‘You bring tool kits to Parliament to test and the following morning you will see right from publications 35% of MPs are HIV positive. So that is the challenge.’
He rather advised health personnel to be more professional in handling medical records of patients, noting if they are trained to ‘keep quiet’ they would avoid divulging confidential information, which he said is scaring many people from testing for HIV.
Deputy ranking member on the Committee George Loh said society will shun members who tested positive and even extend it to other members.
‘Yes I won’t mind if they brought kits here for voluntary testing; what we are all not very comfortable is what my chairman intimated: sometimes these things are blown out of proportion, and you are not too sure how it would be carried [by the public],’ he said to buttress why the MPs are ‘hesitant’.
George Loh advised, ‘As much as we are willing to do the testing, the professionals in the industry should also be willing to stand by their professional integrity and professional ethics.’
‘Our testing is going to sent wrong signals to people, and MPs rather than becoming role-models will be ran down. Even when you have not tested positive, you are walking around and people begin to avoid you… because some misinformation has been put out there.’
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