There are proposals afoot for a major national HIV screening programme. Routine testing could be introduced in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries to as a quarter of those with HIV do not realise they are carrying it. There are some 77,000 people in the UK with HIV and since it was identified, 25,000 people have developed AIDS from HIV and of that nearly 19,000 have died as a result.
From that I deduce that there are maybe up to 25,000 people carrying HIV in t5he UK who are not only at risk themselves but are also a risk to their sexual partners.
It is thought that a screening programme will save lives. There will be a pilot schemes in Leicester, Brighton and Lewisham (where there large communities of gay men and black Africans) in the next month or so. These communities have a greater risk of carrying HIV.
It sounds so attractive doesn’t it? Screen to save lives. Once the pilots have been heralded as a great success and with an opt-out clause applied everyone will be tested unless they say otherwise.
So do I take it that just warning people has no effect? That asking people to consider taking precautions when having sex or being careful where you get your drug needle from doesn’t work? But screening will?
And what will be done with the data? Will there be a national database of those carrying HIV? More importantly, will it change the habits of someone who, as a result of this screening, discovers they carry HIV? Without that it will not matter one jot.
Does this also not demonise gays and black Africans? Every other form or targeting does. Maybe that’s why they’ll do it to everyone whether it’s needed or not, to remove any stigma. Just like spreading stop and search about.
Those who take drugs and / or engage in sexual activity with multiple partners know the risks they take and should take responsibility for their actions. Screening will catch them after the event and may not change what they do anyway. Also screening will prove many negative giving them a false sense of security that all their other partners must be negative too, but that is just today. Everything can change with one single extra encounter.
If we are to do this then there should be legal repercussions on those who do not amend their ways after being found to be positive carriers. By forcing strict precautions in sexual activity or undergoing drugs rehabilitation at the cost of losing health care if AIDS develops, or even being locked up on a specialist unit if your activity endangers other people.
Draconian I know, but the idea is to eradicate HIV/AIDS isn’t it?