Argentina: Government Mandates Compulsory HIV Testing In Armed Forces

Policies mandating HIV testing are gaining ground in Argentina. The government of Argentina has recently issued a decree calling for mandatory HIV testing of all current and future members of the armed forces. This policy began two years ago in an agreement reached between the Ministry of Health and the army in the province of Buenos Aires. With President Carlos Menem's recent decree, No. 906/95, the policy has begun to be implemented at the federal level not only in the army but in all security forces, including the Federal Police and Coast Guard. Sociedad de Integraci„n Gay-Lásbica (SIGLA) reports that several provincial police forces have adopted similar policies, as have federal agencies (such as the Finance Ministry) and private corporations.

This decree is, in fact, contrary to both Argentina's Act 23798 which states that the fight against AIDS is of national interest, and more especially Article 2 of this Act which upholds the dignity of all persons and formally condemns any form of discrimination.

Implementation of this decree constitutes a violation of medical confidentiality, notably with regard to AIDS. As a result of this policy, it is reported that any government official will have access to the medical file of those HIV-positive persons who may be under their command.

Argentina is reneging on its international commitments. At the December 1994 World Summit in Paris, Argentina signed a Declaration on AIDS in which it pledged that Argentina "ensures equal protection under the law for persons living with HIV/AIDS, with regard to access to health care, employment, education, travel, housing, and social welfare."

On a recent visit to France, President Menem was met with protests from numerous groups, including Aides Fádáration Nationale, ACT UP Paris, Chrátiens et Sida, and David et Jonathan. IGLHRC joins with these groups and with the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) in supporting SIGLA's demand for the immediate abrogation of this decree and all policies resulting from it.

Write to President Carlos Menem stressing the following points:

  1. Coercion to undergo HIV antibody testing without informed consent violates Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
  2. It is documented that mandatory HIV testing does nothing to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS, but instead deflects crucial resources which would be better spent on educational and outreach programs.
  3. An adequate public health response to the AIDS epidemic in Argentina includes state guarantees for the safety of persons with AIDS and HIV+ persons and not their social stigmatization.
  4. As a country that is in the process of renewing its commitment to democracy, Argentina must reaffirm its commitment to human rights, a commitment that by definition includes the right of people living with HIV/AIDS to live without fear of persecution.

Send letters to:

President Carlos Menem
Casa de Gobierno
Balcarce 50
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Please send copies of your letters to IGLHRC, and to:

SIGLA
Parana 122
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fax: +54-1-362-82-61