New amendments sought to grant HIV testing for children

THE government will in the September parliamentary meeting bring a schedule of amendments to repeal some section of the HIV and Aids (Prevention and Control) Act, 2008, to allow children below 18 years to undergo voluntary HIV testing.

In the new amendments, equally individual persons will be allowed to undergo testing without being compelled to visit testing centres recognised by the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Minister Ummy Mwalimu told the National Assembly here last week.

Winding up the debate on her ministry’s budget estimates, Ms Mwalimu said she had considered an advice from lawmakers who pushed for amendments in the law to reduce HIV infections in the country.

Various stakeholders in the country have been advocating for amendments of the legislation to allow people to conduct individual testing as well as children below 18 years to undergo testing without a written consent of their parents or guardians.

Under the current law, section 13(4) stipulates that a person shall not undergo HIV testing except in a centre provided for under the Act.

Another part that has been receiving sharp criticism from children rights groups and a section of MPs is section 14(2) which states that a child or a person with inability to comprehend the result may undergo HIV testing after a written consent of a parent or recognised guardian.

A fortnight ago, Mwanza Y outh Children Network (MY CN) convened in Dodoma for two days to propose the amendments in the law to allow children below 18 years to undergo voluntary testing, saying children were engaging in sexual activities even before attaining the adult age.

At the US Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinated meeting, children and youth unanimously agreed that there was need to amend the law to help those acquiring HIV to start ARV dosages to help them live longer.

Deputy Chairperson of the Children Council Aidath Ismail said experience shows that children begin engaging in sexual relationships at the age of between 12 and 13 years and that there was a likelihood of them acquiring HIV/ AIDS.

“Even seeking consent from parents or guardians is difficult because many children are afraid of their parents who may think they are engaging in sexual orientations,’’ she said.

Last week, debating the 2019/2020 budget for the ministry, the Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Community Development, Mr Peter Serukamba suggested the amendments of HIV and Aids (Prevention and Control) Act, 2008, saying children at the age of 15, 16 and 17 years were at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

According to the health minister, in the next parliamentary meeting of September, the government will table the amendments as MPs have suggested.

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