Mandatory AIDS Testing


AIDS has become a worldwide epidemic that has struck every identifiable group.
However, persons who are considered to be in a high-risk group of contracting
HIV, the disease believed to cause AIDS, are still stigmatized by the media and
other professionals as being diseased and abnormal. It is quite surprising
still that this type of stereotype still exists now in our gender-bending
society. No longer do only gays, prostitutes, bisexual men, intravenous drug
users contract HIV, the heterosexual community is also facing the epidemic at
phenomenon increases. It is estimated that heterosexual transmission accounts
for 75% of all AIDS cases in the world.(Video, CBC In Review) And still
individuals persist that AIDS is a gay disease and that if one is not gay, one
is immune from it. No one is immune to from AIDS. Until a vaccine and cure is
discovered for AIDS, the numbers will increase and people will keep dying.
Therefore it is of vital importance to educate people about AIDS and to promote
safer sex. The key word now is prevention. Among many proposed policies to
help prevent AIDS infection, one of the most controversial is mandatory AIDS
testing. Mandatory AIDS testing is theoretically very effective, however, when
it is applied, it is not practical at all because one is dealing with human
nature, the odd nature of the virus itself, and also all of the stigmas that are
attached to AIDS. Therefore, not only will mandatory AIDS testing not prevent
HIV infection, it will indirectly increase HIV infection because of the adverse
effect it will have on voluntary testers. One of the major flaws of mandatory
AIDS testing is that "it provides people with a false sense of security."(Greig,
p68) When one goes for AIDS testing or more accurately an HIV antibody test
which is also know as the ELISA test (Kolodny, p42), one tests for the presence
of HIV antibodies not for the virus itself. Our bodies manufacture antibodies
to fight against foreign infections, therefore the presence of HIV antibodies
indicates that the person is infected with HIV and is considered a carrier and
may infect others. However, if the person is infected recently enough, these
antibodies might not show up in the test because it can take the body as long as
six months to develop these antibodies. This period of time is known as the
window period. So a person whose test returns with a negative HIV status may be
in fact a carrier and not know it because the antibodies have not shown up yet.
Misguided, this individual believing to be HIV negative, may participate in high
risk activities for contracting HIV and infect others as well.

Mandatory Aids testing also involves sub-policy known as contact tracing or
partner notification. The intent of this policy is to have an individual who is
HIV positive disclose his sexual history and all partners as well. Then the
public health office will contact these partners and have them tested and
educated. This policy fails to recognize that it is dealing with a very
sensitive, and private issue and people might not want to disclose their sexual
history. Also how will this information be verified? It will be of no surprise
that certain individuals may lie and identify someone who they had no sexual
contact with just to put that person through the hassle. Not only is this
policy an infringement on privacy, it is not effective because there is no cure
for AIDS. In the past, contact tracing was also implemented for other
STD\'s(sexual transmitted diseases) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes simplex
where there is treatment for the diseases. (Greig, p71) For AIDS, there is no
cure or vaccines, therefore, people living with AIDS(PWA) are not treated but in
fact being re-educated again. With all the hassle and insecurity of the
mandatory AIDS testing policy, people will become reluctant to test. Also
because the results of the tests will be kept on file and the results are
accessible by some selected individuals and groups, people will become even more
hesitant to test voluntarily first let alone be mandatory. The consequences of
public disclosure or even select disclosure are very damaging to a person who
has just learned of his HIV positive status. Some of the negative consequences
are alienation from community and family, loss of accommodation, denial of
disability and life insurance, travel restrictions and also the prospect of
"blackmailing". (IPC, HIV/AIDS, p17) The notion that mandatory AIDS testing
and its implications deter people from voluntary testing is evident from the
possible discrimination that one might face undergoing the procedures of