It’s illegal for pastors to demand mandatory HIV screening before marriage” – Dr Ayisi Addo

It is illegal for churches and religious leaders to demand HIV tests from potential couples before blessing their marriage. Love is bigger than HIV, and no church or pastor has the right to deny a potential couple the right to marriage because they have tested positive for HIV.

“It is illegal for pastors and churches to demand mandatory HIV screening before the potential marriage of couples are blessed, and such affected persons could seek legal redress,” Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programmes Manager, National AIDS/STI Control Programme has stated categorically.

Monitored by the Communication for Development and Advocacy Consult (CDA Consult) in Tema, he added,“One’s HIV status was not the standard to measure their ability to love and procreate,” Dr Ayisi Addo made the remarks at the “Ghana News Agency -Tema Regional Office’s Stakeholder Engagement.”

The monthly stakeholder engagement is a progressive media caucus platform created to allow state and non-state stakeholders to interact with journalists, and address national issues.

Speaking on the topic: “Workplace policy on HIV/AIDS, who enforces it: Legal basis for churches demanding HIV/AIDS test from would-be partners? Role of partners of an infected individual,” Dr Ayisi-Addo questioned the rationale for such mandatory screenings for only HIV and not for other STIs or other health problems.

“Why would any pastor reckon that it was appropriate for such demands to be made before blessing couples. Under the current laws, no one, especially pastors, could demand a couple’s status before going ahead to join them in holy matrimony.

“If there is someone negative but still wants to marry a partner who is positive, you must not prevent them, in any way it is their responsibility to own their results and not forced to disclose it to anyone,” he said.

He indicated that several serodiscordant couples were married and have had children with negative HIV status, and said, “Imagine if such persons were denied marriage just because they were HIV positive, that would have been denying them a life.”

He noted that it was also illegal to surreptitiously ask a medical person to take samples of would-be coupled for HIV test before blessing their marriages. He stresses that, “nobody’s status should be disclosed to a third party without their consent”.

Dr Ayisi Addo said, as a programme, they were interested in many people knowing their status because it was the only way for persons who have tested positive to be put on treatment and have viral suppression in the context of the current aspirational target of the programme.

This, he said, was based on the principle and the science that when somebody has viral suppression, the person would not transmit, emphasizing that undetectable viral is non-transmissible and that was the only way the chain of transmission could be broken.

Mr Francis Ameyibor, GNA Tema Regional Manager said the GNA-Tema Stakeholder Engagement health segment is anchored on responsive communication as a weapon for attitudinal change advocacy which hinges on an amalgamation of HIV prevention, and encouragement for a healthy lifestyle.

Mr Ameyibor said GNA-Tema seeks to support the works of the National HIV/STI Control Programme to achieve maximum impact through consistent public advocacy and sensitization to demystify the myth surrounding HIV.

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