Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has said they will require people recruited for military training to undergo mandatory HIV testing contrary to the HIV and Aids (Prevention and Management) law, saying they want an exception to avoid compromising security of the nation.
The HIV and Aids (Prevention and Management) Bill was developed by the Malawi Law Commission in 2008 to provide an institutional framework for effective regulation of the prevention and management of the HIV and Aids epidemic in Malawi.
The Bill also formally established National Aids Commission (NAC), outlining composition of the commission and procedures for appointing commissioners and the chief executive officer.
But at National Police Headquaretsr in Lilongwe on Friday during the HIV adn Aids Management and Prevention Act disseminatiin meeting which NAC held, the armyy and police top brass said the law would compromise the quality of service of its officer hence they would still demand mandatory HIV testing from recruits.
“The training for MDF officers is very rigorous. I don’t think an HIV-postive person can withstand it,” said Colonel Glandson Madziatera.
Both MDF and Police asked NAC to exempt the security organs from implementing the law.
But NAC head of policy support and development, Andrina Mwansambo said the law can not be disregarded and advised the military and police to “review” their recruitment and training mechanisms “to ensure they are not in conflict with the law.
Section 27 of the Act prohibited testing before recruitment into employment, but applicants would be allowed to assess fitness to serve in the Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service, Malawi Prison Service and Immigration Department.
When the Bill was being debated in Parliament, many legislators queried what would happen to those officers in uniform found HIV positive while in service when Section 28 makes it a criminal offence to fire an employee on the grounds that he or she is living or perceived to living with HIV and Aids.
Parliamentarians voted to reject provisions that endangered human rights and had the potential to negatively affect the HIV response in the country.
The law had initially included provisions to make HIV testing and treatment mandatory for select populations on a discriminatory basis, and that would criminalize HIV exposure and transmission, amongst others.
Civil society and activists argued that these provisions would violate the Malawi Constitution, be at odds with international best practice, and compromise the country’s efforts to advance HIV treatment and prevention.