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04.02.2005 Regional News

Nurse says pastors have no right to demand HIV status of couple

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Wa, Feb 04, GNA - A nurse in the Wa Regional Hospital has said pastors had no legal authority to demand to know the HIV/AIDS status of fianc=E9s and fianc=E9es before blessing their wedding.

Miss Pholomens Santa, who is in charge of HIV/AIDS counselling at the hospital, said voluntary counselling and testing was strictly confidential and no one could be forced in anyway to disclose his or her status to any other person.

''It is not the business of any pastor to make such request because a person can decide to marry an HIV/A|IDS positive man or woman and that is entirely his or her choice,'' she said.

She said this when she spoke on voluntary counselling and testing at a one day forum on HIV/AIDS organised for women members of the Trades Union Congress in the Wa municipality on Thursday.

Miss Santa said only the medical doctor who had been treating a patient for some time had the right to know his or her HIV status. In a speech read on his behalf the acting Wa Municipal Chief Executive, Mr Godfrey Bayon Tangu, called for vigorous campaigns on counselling in order to reduce the problem of stigmatisation that, in his opinion, had become more deadly than the disease itself. He told the participants to fight against traditional practices like widow inheritance as it was undermining efforts to check the spread of the disease.

Miss Fati Tambro, Chairperson of the TUC women's committee in the region, said the campaign against the disease would not be won if people failed to show love and compassion to people living with the disease.

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