The Zambian government has defended controversial plans to introduce mandatory HIV testing across all health centres.
On Tuesday, President Edgar Lungu announced that testing for the virus that causes Aids, as well as counselling and treatment, will no longer be done on a voluntary basis.
The aim is to make Zambia Aids-free by 2030.
The move has however divided opinion with some political parties and human rights campaigners arguing it will infringe on people’s privacy.
But Chief Government Spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga tells the BBC that Zambia stands by its plans:
“Before the results are given to you, you will be counselled by qualified health practitioners. They are not just going to test you and say, ‘you are HIV positive’. No. You will immediately be on treatment, which will even help with other chronic diseases.”
“It is your life and the government has the duty to save the lives of its nationals. Those that are saying ‘it’s my privacy and you are infringing on my rights’, what human rights [do you mean] when people are saving your life to prolong your life? [The] government is saying if you cannot be responsible for your own life, let government take responsibility.”
It is estimated that 81% of admissions at the University Teaching Hospital, the Zambia’s biggest referral hospital, are HIV-related.
Zambia has one of the highest prevalences in southern Africa, with 11.6% of Zambian adults aged 15 to 49 years being HIV positive, according to the National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council.