Scaling up HIV testing in resource-constrained settings: debates on the role of VCT and routine ‘opt-in or opt-out’ HIV testing.
Strode, Ann Elaine.
Van Rooyen, Heidi.
Abdool Karim, Quarraisha.
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Scaling up of the numbers of people voluntarily undergoing HIV testing has become vital, especially in resource-constrained settings, where the need for knowledge of HIV status for both prevention and care is critical. The reality is that for most people in Africa, access to HIV testing and to voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) has been very limited, and this has human rights implications – missing the opportunity to be diagnosed with a disease that is now well understood, manageable and treatable means certain death. The key challenge in our current context is how scaling up of HIV testing should be done. In responding to this challenge, we are guided by Gruskin and Loff,1 who state that ‘A human rights approach mandates that any public strategy, whether or not rights are to be restricted, be informed by evidence and widely debated. This approach protects against unproved and potentially counterproductive strategies, even those motivated by the genuine despair in the face of overwhelming public health challenges.’ This article describes the arguments and discussion raised during a session on models for increasing access to HIV testing at the 2nd National Conference on HIV/AIDS held in Durban in June 2005. It describes the legal framework for HIV testing in South Africa, frames the issues at the heart of the debate, and describes and discusses the various models of HIV testing, routine HIV testing, VCT and mandatory or compulsory HIV testing, within the context of HIV prevention and care. It concludes with recommendations.