News clipping - iafrica.com - 1 February 2011

School HIV tests queried

Students and teachers organizations are highly concerned about government's planned nationwide HIV testing campaign in schools.

The plan is expected to be rolled out next month and will see pupils being able to go for a test in a private space at school on weekends and during school holidays.

The Sowetan and Times newspapers reported that the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) described the school-testing plan as a bomb waiting to explode. "The country has not dealt with the stigma attached. You cannot expect a learner to go for a life-changing test and then go back to class as if nothing happened. Serious medical tests such as HIV and Aids should be done outside the school," COSAS president Bongani Mani told the Times.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the National Teachers Union (NTU) are also concerned.

NTU's deputy president, Allen Thompson, said that the tests done on children should not be used purely to increase the statistics to reach the targeted number of people to be tested for HIV. "We are going to get an expert physiological view on whether a child can be able to deal with such news should they test positive."

SADTU is worried about the effect the testing will have on educators and wants parents, social workers and counselors to ease the psychological burden that could be placed on them.

Spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said to the Times: "If the testing takes place, we would like full psychological support in the form of the presence of parents, social workers and counselors in order to ease the burden on teachers."