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Jan 21, 2020

Equal Opportunities Bill Proposes to Allow HIV Testing from Age 16

The proposed legislation also deals with HIV prevention and care. The 2018 statistics from the Ministry of Health show that there were two hundred and fifty-four new infected persons with HIV/AIDS. On a yearly average, one hundred and five persons die from complications associated with the disease and twice the number of women than men are affected with HIV, despite the availability of free antiretroviral medication at health centres across the country. The bill categorizes a person living with HIV as a disabled person, but not in the case of diabetes and hypertension, which are far more prevalent conditions.  The proposed law goes further to allow persons sixteen years and older to get tested for HIV. Currently, only adults can legally get tested.


Rashad Brathwaite

Rashad Brathwaite, Consultant/Legal Drafts Person

“Because of the explicit protection of HIV positive status, a person with HIV need not use the disability provision. But what we are talking about isn’t simply a question of HIV—whether that is multiple sclerosis, a whole range of conditions that fall within the scope of this.  Now let me speak to the source of this provision and the importance of this provision. What you currently have is a legal framework that for two years….if a child is not telling their parents that they are having sex at sixteen, which they are legally entitled to do, and they do not have that conversation with their parents at sixteen that they are sexually active. They are not telling their parents that they want to get tested and they are not going to get tested and for two years that child may be living with HIV, unable to access care. And there is nothing greater for the health effects for a child or person to access care as soon as possible if they are positive. This will save lives, this will improve quality of lives. Now parents can continue to have conversations with their children about sex and on issues of access, etc. if you have that relationship with your child because there are eighteen-year-olds and twenty-year-olds who when they go get tested, they go with their parents and they go with adults with whom they feel comfortable, even though there is no legal obligation. The law cannot mandate relationships of comfort with parents. So where you can legally consent to sex at the age of sixteen, for two years, the law places these children in jeopardy. We are playing Russian roulette with children’s lives. And therefore globally, UN AIDS, PAHO, World Health Organization recognize that where the age of consent is equalized with the age of sexual consent, (A) you have more testing and (B) the prevalence is down. I think any parent, any parent, would want that their child not be exposed to HIV and if they are exposed that they are able to access healthcare and to live a full and productive life.”

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