10 Mar 2004

Fiji Human Rights Commission warns against compulsory AIDS testing

11:31 am on 10 March 2004

The Fiji Human Rights Commission has warned that compulsory tests for the HIV/AIDS virus are illegal under the constitution.

The 1997 constitution gives people freedom from scientific or medical procedures or treatment without their informed consent, or a lawful guardian if appropriate.

The Fiji Times quotes the director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, as saying if the government decides to bring in compulsory testing, it would have to work within the law.

Dr Shameem's warning came after the attorney general, Qoroniasi Bale, said he was waiting for instructions from the ministry of health to draw up legislation for compulsory testing.

But Mr Bale says such legislation would have the barest minimum potential to infringe human rights.

He spoke of the compulsory testing of prisoners on admission and release.

Meanwhile, the co-ordinator of the Woman's Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, says breaches of human rights are not negotiable and any such legislation would need wide consultation because HIV/AIDS is a worldwide problem.