The Senate Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids said there was a need to review the current legislation to ensure that compulsory HIV testing was done on inmates to control the further spread of the disease within prisons. The committee presented its first report on the anti-retroviral therapy (ART) rollout programme which revealed that only Harare Central and Khami prisons were accredited to administer ART.
Mashonaland Central Senator Monica Mavhunga (Zanu PF) said when the Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids visited Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, they were told that the HIV problem was serious.
“The committee suggested that some inmates were affected psychologically and it was up to them to decide whether to get tested or not and mentally challenged inmates cannot undergo testing because the law does not allow people to be tested involuntarily,” Mavhunga said.
“However, I am of the opinion that we should look into the legislation to ensure that those who have mental illnesses and are sentenced and jailed should be tested. Even those in remand prison should be tested.”
She said some prisoners acquired HIV after being sodomised by other inmates.
“I am saying all prisoners are at risk of sodomy and therefore all prisoners should undergo testing,” Mavhunga said.
Senator Chief Ngungumbane said the Chikurubi Prison Hospital psychiatrist told the committee that prisoners with mental problems died unnecessarily because of the law which did not permit HIV testing without the consent of the patient or next of kin.
According to Zimbabwe National Guidelines on HIV Testing and Counselling, some of the legal and ethical considerations of HIV testing include the right to informed consent before a medical procedure is carried out, the right to privacy, and the right to information for making choices about one’s health and well-being, among others.
“In Zimbabwe all health care providers are bound by an ethical principle to do all that is necessary and available to provide the best possible care through the use of diagnostic tools and follow-up treatment. Therefore, an HIV test must be provided when requested or indicated,” the guidelines read.