On the resumption of Parliament for the Fourth Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic on 11th October, 2016, the Ghana AIDS Commission Bill 2015 was tabled for amendment by the Committee on Health in Parliament. The amendment seeks to add new clauses to the bill which could affect the disclosure of the medical status of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
The most controversial clause in the Bill is Clause 30 (subclause 5) which states that
"A health worker who has information on the HIV status of another person due to a privileged relationship with that other person, may disclose the information to the spouse or prospective spouse of that person if;
a. That person refuses to give consent for the information to be disclosed to the spouse or prospective spouse of that person; and
b. That spouse or prospective spouse is at risk of being infected."
Clause 30 (sub clause 6) also states that
“A healthcare provider shall not disclose information under subsection (5) unless the healthcare provider has recorded the refusal to give consent in writing agreed to by the person living with HIV or AIDS”
A healthcare provider in this instance refers to a “healthcare professional, a healthcare practitioner licensed to practice in Ghana in accordance with an enactment in force, a Social Welfare Practitioner or a Professional Counsellor.”
Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh (NPP,Manhyia) argued that the provision being considered is dangerous. The onus of disclosure of one’s HIV/AIDS status lies on the person. He argued that what is important is access to treatment/medication and the right to give birth for Persons Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHA).
Papa Owusu Ankomah, MP for Sekondi also believes that though the intention of the amendment is good the clause is problematic since it could be abused greatly.
Dr Akoto Osei was of the view that the clause was very controversial.
He stated that most of the members of the committee proposing the amendment weren’t available in the house, and the sector minister was also unavailable. He therefore asked the Speaker to adjourn the discussion till an occasion when more members of Parliament were present.
Alfred Agbesi, MP for Ashaiman suggested that since the clause is a very controversial one, discussions on the entire bill should be adjourned till additional work is done on it at the committee level before it’s returned to the house for discussion.
Discussions on the controversial clause resumed on the 12th of October with a member of the Health Committee suggesting that the clause seeks to give a healthcare provider the right to get a court order to compel a Person Living with HIV/AIDS to disclose their status to their spouse or potential spouse.
“It doesn’t make sense for anyone to be compelled to disclose their HIV/AIDS status even by the court”, said Dr Akoto Osei (NPP, Old Tafo), arguing for the Speaker to defer the discussion.
The Speaker in stepping the discussion down said “Let us hold our horses and get everyone on board so that we can have this bill discussed very well”
We call on all Ghanaian citizens, human rights activists, lawyers and public health professionals interested in these and other clauses in the bill to contact Parliament's Health Committee to make inputs into its discussions of the proposed amendments.
Here are links to the social media profiles, e-mails and phone numbers of the committee members for whom this information is available:
Follow Odekro on twitter for live daily updates of Parliamentary debates.
Report by: Elijah Atta-Aidoo, Social Media Manager, Odekro.