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Investigation into unauthorised HIV testing on learners

Mar 29, 2018
Investigation into unauthorised HIV testing on learners

The Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education says an investigation is underway into unauthorised HIV tests done on pupils where the Kheth’impilo project operates.

“The department assures the public that an investigation is underway on this matter and anyone found to have breached the terms and conditions for operating in our schools will face the wrath of the law,” said the department in a statement.

Following uproar from parents who said their children were tested without their consent, the department launched an investigation.

The Kheth’Impilo programme, which is a partnership between the Health and Basic Education Department, offers healthcare services at schools. The tests are for drug abuse, tuberculosis (TB), HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI).

The programme aims to target certain areas such as the Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo coastal education districts, where the quality of education is marred by social and health barriers such as pupil pregnancies, drug abuse and escalating infection rates of HIV and TB.

Although the programme is encouraged by the department, it is not compulsory and relies on the consent of parents.

“Parents, guardians or caregivers are encouraged to support the programme but have the right to decline services for children under the age of 12. Active parental consent is sought, as well as learner assent for those 12 years and older, as per the Children’s Act, 2005. If a parent, guardian or caregiver does not want his/her child to receive the service, he/she may say so on the consent form,” said the department.

The Kheth’Impilo programme draws its mandate from the Integrated Schools Health Policy (ISHP) document, which maps out the implementation of the health programmes in schools.

Through the policy, learner support agents, qualified nursing staff and social workers were appointed.

As the programme seeks to deliver healthcare to children who may often be minors and unable to consent, the ISHP policy provides guidelines for schools to inform parents on the integrated schools health programme. 

For learners to receive HIV testing at their school, the policy dictates it is essential that:

•             The parents of that school are actively consulted;

•             Active parental consent and learner assent (12 years and older) are sought; from the age of 12, learners can also consent;

•             Human and infrastructure resources are available to maintain privacy and confidentiality;

•             Ongoing psychosocial support is available; and

•             HIV testing and counselling (HCT) services are offered by a trained professional in a private consultation.

“The department has advised parents that the health care facility is not compulsory and all participation is voluntary,” said the department. - SAnews.gov.za