Minister calls for HIV testing of sex offenders

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa's constitutional and technology minister Dr Audrey van Zyl, has added her voice to calls for the imposition of compulsory HIV-tests on sex offenders as soon as possible.
The minister, who is also responsible for gender issues, the youth and the handicapped, said she welcomed the South African Law Commission's recommendation for compulsory testing for sex offenders and was encouraged by the government's positive reaction to the recommendation.
"But we need to act and go beyond mere lip service.
The Western Cape was already running 42 health facilities where AZT was supplied to rape victims whether it was known that the rapists were HIV carriers or not.
"It obviously is not always possible to test sex offenders within the called for 72 hour period after the offence, but where it is possible it should be done as in the case of driving under the influence of alcohol.
"If someone is involved in an accident a breathalyser test is done.
Where possible the same compulsory testing of the sex offenders must be done.
"Knowing that the offender is not infected will take a major psychological load off the shoulders of both the victims and their relatives," she said.
Van Zyl said that sexually abused women were presently subjected to an AZT-course which, in many cases, had side-effects like nausea which added to the negative traumatic experience of the rape they suffered.
"Such a course would be stopped sooner, if tests indicated that the sex offender was not infected with AIDS.
It would also save the province a great deal of money if the expensive four-week course was shortened.
These are but a few of the advantages if such a law were implemented," said Van Zyl.
The Western Cape Provincial Health Department initiated AZT treatment for rape victims in South Africa in December 1999.
Van Zyl, known for her views on the lack of political commitment to combat HIV/AIDS, pleaded for compulsory testing, especially after the vicious rape attack on two Belgium visitors to South Africa last year.

04 july 2001 20:38:00

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