The Superior Health Council (SHC) has decided in favour of the decentralisation and de-medicalisation of HIV (AIDS virus) screening tests. This type of screening is aimed especially at patients who slip through the traditional nets, explains SHC. The SHC opinion came in response to a question from the former Public Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx, and is based on the latest WHO recommendations on the subject, and on the “National HIV Plan” for 2014-2019. Several pilot schemes have been carried out in recent years to improve the reach of HIV screening, in particular sample collection, rapid tests, and involvement of lay health professionals. This type of screening should reach high risk populations reluctant to go to clinics for traditional tests.
Promoting this type of strategy, however, requires there to be a change in legislation. Indeed, the November 10th 1967 royal decree bans decentralised and de-medicalised screening. “Therefore SHC is calling on the competent authorities to adapt the law pertaining to healthcare professions,” stipulates its opinion notification. The SHC recommendation contradicts policies conducted by the current federal Public Health Minister Maggie De Block, which only allow payment for medical screening and have no plan to amend the royal decree. As a result, several pilot decentralised screening schemes had to be halted early this year for lack of funding.
The NGO Ex Aequo, which was in charge of one of the pilot scheme, is happy with the SHC opinion. “Sometimes we feel like Minister De Block is completely unaware of possible strategies to fight HIV,” deplores the organisation. Professor Yves Van Laethem from SHC believes that this refusal to change legislation “does not bode well.” “Going against scientific data is counter-productive,” he comments.