As part of its effort to control the spread of HIV, the government has introduced mandatory pre-marital HIV test for Muslims.
Now, there is an ongoing debate about extending this mandatory pre-marital HIV test to Non-Muslims.
MCA Government Affairs Monitoring Bureau is of the view that for Non-Muslims, it should be voluntary and not by compulsion.
Mandatory pre-marital HIV test will not control the spread of HIV effectively. Why?
1) It is only good at that point of time of testing but often give rise to a false sense of security. The sexual behaviour after test is more important since the high-risk individual will continue to be exposed to the risk of infection.
2) In the Malaysian setting, we are worried about the confidentiality since many prospective couples are involved in the tests. A lot of these cases will be handled by mid and low level medical staffs. The social stigmatism because of leaked or false information can be tremendous.
3) A lot of manpower and financial resources are committed to detect often very few cases. The pick up rate is low, about 5 per 10,000 cases. These limited resources should be used for:
a) Training of counselors
b) Training of medical staff
c) Treatment of HIV cases
d) Funding for HIV education
e) The Harm Reduction and Methadone Replacement Therapy that have proven to be effective.
4) Often it is not just detecting a HIV case. Of more importance is the counselling and education that is required as part of the management. It may require the change of job and behaviour pattern of the patient. We just do not have the resources to do this professionally as yet.
Hence, resources for training the counsellors and medical staffs become more urgent than premarital HIV tests. A detected case of HIV without proper treatment and management will not prevent the spread of HIV infection.
In regards to human rights, the international guideline on HIV/Aids and Human Rights states clearly that the right of people living with HIV is infringed by mandatory premarital testing and or the requirement of AIDS - free certificate as a pre-condition for the grant of marriage license under state law. This implicates the right to marry.
One state MB went as far as to suggest that HIV carrier should be quarantined. This just illustrates the level of ignorance even among our leaders about HIV.