Health News of Saturday, 2 March 2013
The Ghana AIDS Commission has advised pastors who ask their members to undergo a mandatory HIV test before they bless their marriages to stop the practice.
The Director of Policy and Planning at the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Joseph Amuzu, who gave the advice, said the test that pastors required marrying parties to do, should not be for the interest of the pastors, but of the parties, and so they should not be mandated to undergo testing to ascertain their HIV status, and declare the outcome to their pastors.
Though he said the commission believed pastors were imposing a mandatory HIV test for the good of the people, “but what we are saying is that let’s leave that decision to the two people who are marrying for them to decide. The pastor must give them the counseling that is required.”
Speaking at a workshop that brought together the relevant HIV stakeholders to provide input to guide the revision of the revised National HIV/AIDS and STI, added that their position was not an affront to the authority of the pastors.
Dr. Amuzu, however, emphasised that pastors should encourage the would-be couples to do a HIV test to know their status, adding that after testing, the marring parties should not disclose the outcome of the test to the pastors, because it was their private issue.
“Unless they, themselves, want to disclose it to the pastor, they don’t have to, and that is what is called the right to privacy and confidentiality, and that is something very strong in the policy we have developed.”
The policy creates an enabling environment and guidelines for parties to be able to reach some consensus and work towards common goals of reducing HIV infections.