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Commentary & Opinion
Lack of Routine HIV Testing "Undermines" Progress in Fight Against AIDS, Opinion Piece Says

February 10, 2004

Routine HIV testing is "virtually absent" in most countries, and the lack of testing "undermine[s] overall progress" in the fight against AIDS, Richard Holbrooke, former U.N. ambassador and president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, and Richard Furman, founder of World Medical Mission, write in a New York Times opinion piece. International policy on testing "must be changed" from the current "Voluntary Counseling and Testing" model to "Confidential and Recommended (or Routine) Counseling and Testing," Holbrooke and Furman say, adding that such a change in wording would "emphasize" people's primary concern with testing -- whether it is confidential. HIV testing should be required at marriage, before childbirth and during any hospital visit, according to Holbrooke and Furman. Although there are concerns that such testing would submit people to social stigma, "public health criteria legitimately take priority over the desire of an individual," they say. International and U.S. AIDS funding should support programs that encourage and carry out testing, research and distribute new technologies and refocus public education campaigns to "stress the importance of testing," Holbrooke and Furman write. "The next big step is simple:" expand the fight against HIV/AIDS to include testing, Holbrooke and Furman say, concluding, "Otherwise, AIDS -- the ultimate weapon of mass destruction -- will continue to spread no matter what else is done" (Holbrooke/Furman, New York Times, 2/10).

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