Army to introduce compulsory HIV testing
Saturday 13 March 2004


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
·South Africa
West Africa


Country Profiles
Conferences / Research
Job opportunities

News Briefs

ZAMBIA: Stronger anti-AIDS focus on women - First Lady
UGANDA: AIDS drug roadblock as hundreds die daily
DJIBOUTI: AIDS drug rollout kicks off
PlusNews E-mail Subscription

SWAZILAND: Army to introduce compulsory HIV testing

MBABANE, 3 February (PLUSNEWS) - Swaziland's small national army, the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), has confirmed plans to introduce a programme of compulsory HIV testing for its personnel.

"This is an information gathering exercise, and not an exclusionary policy. No one will be fired because he or she is HIV-positive. We have to know how big the problem is," a high-ranking army official told PlusNews.

Colonel Gwalagwala Dlamini, the army's chief of personnel and chairman of its HIV/AIDS Task Committee, said in a recent statement that testing for the USDF's 3,500 soldiers and recruits would be compulsory, but would remain anonymous.

"All personnel will be tested, but test results will not bear the name of the person tested. At this point, we need to know what percentage of soldiers are HIV-positive. This is for planning purposes, to help our mitigation efforts," Dlamini said.

However, Dlamini added there was a voluntary component to the plan, which would allow soldiers to elect to receive their test results, and to undergo voluntary testing and counselling (VTC).

"The VCT programme is conducive and friendly, and the counselling is done professionally," Dlamini said. Until this year, army personnel had to go off base for testing and counselling.

"Voluntary counselling and testing is the point of departure in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Dlamini. "It is a key component of prevention and care programmes. In prevention, personnel learn how the immune virus is transmitted, how to practice safe sex, the advantages of taking a test, and steps to take to avoid becoming infected or infecting others."

This year, 13 testing and counselling centres will be established at the army's headquarters in Bethany, 25 km east of the capital, Mbabane, and at military bases throughout the country.

The army's policy is to "encourage" recruits to take blood tests to determine their HIV status. However, it is not clear whether a recruit's job is jeopardised by a refusal to take a blood test.

"The USDF recognises the fact that several aspects of the military environment put its armed forces personnel at risk, including the fact that most soldiers are in the age group mostly at risk of HIV infection (18 to 39 years), as well as the ethos of risk-taking that characterises the military. Yet, one of the most important factors that increase the risk of infection is posting personnel away from their communities, country, region and continent," said Dlamini.

Some AIDS organisations have alleged that the army could move towards a policy to discriminate against HIV-positive people in the ranks, which would further stigmatise the disease in a country where close to 40 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive, but it is still rare for people to publically admit their status.

But Janice Simelane, a health worker in the commercial city of Manzini, said the army was faced with the same personnel crisis, due to AIDS, as the police force, other government agencies and civilian businesses and organisations.

"The National Emergency Committee on HIV/AIDS says that half of men and women in their twenties are HIV-positive. The army cannot make them afraid to join up, or there will be no recruits," Simelane said.

Sources at the Swaziland Royal Police Force told PlusNews that a programme for testing police personnel was being drafted.



Recent SWAZILAND Reports

Unregulated ARVs cause health havoc,  5/Mar/04
AIDS and economic decline hamper school enrolments,  12/Jan/04
AIDS toll leads to flood of bogus "miracle" cures,  29/Dec/03
Community provides "shoulders to cry on",  11/Dec/03
Resisting condom use as AIDS deaths soar,  1/Dec/03


The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:


  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)



  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development

  • GTZ/Afronets

[Back] [Home Page]

Click to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about IRIN's Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to

The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All graphics and Images on this site may not be re-produced without the express permission of the original owner. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004