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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK


Children and HIV tests: Head to head

The High Court will hear the test case on Thursday

A London council is going to the High Court on Thursday to get the child of an HIV-positive woman to have a test for the disease.

Camden council argues that it is in the best interests of the child to have a test.

The BBC's Karen Allen reports: "Testing requires parental consent"
Doctors say treatment with new anti-HIV drugs can reduce the virus to almost undetectable levels, saving lives, although there are side effects.

But the child's parents, who are "vehemently opposed" to testing, believe they are best placed to protect their daughter's interests and to decide how she should be brought up.

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They favour alternative medicine and the child's father is an alternative healthcare practitioner.

If Camden is successful, the case could mean the green light for local authorities to intervene over other treatments for children.

A decision on the case, which is being held in private, is not expected to be made public until next week.

BBC News Online pitches two opposing views on the controversial case.

The National Aids Trust supports the Camden Council's position, while the George House Trust, a Manchester-based HIV centre, argues against.

Derek Bodell, Director of the National AIDS Trust:

We strongly support HIV testing being made available for babies and children who could be at risk of infection.

Today, there are great advantages in knowing you or your child's HIV status.

New combination drug treatments can signficantly improve the health and life expectancy of people living with the virus.

Test results can help parents make informed decisions about the best treatment and care options for their children.

Clearly, it is always preferable for families and their care workers to achieve consensus on these issues, but in situations where this proves impossible we would support a local authority in seeking an independent review on the best course of action for the child's well-being.

In the final analysis, we believe that the best interests of the child must be paramount in these cases and that children have the right to receive the best care available.

The George House Trust:

It's a question of choice.

Nobody should be forcibly tested for HIV.

Focusing only on potential benefits of treatment for the child overlooks the impact on the mother and the household. This is not in the interests of child or parent.

Demanding routine testing and taking people to court to ensure testing risks driving HIV underground, making it less likely that people will access services. This is not in the interest of the public's health.

Using the law is no way to support people with HIV or to prevent transmission.

The law puts social workers in an invidious position - guarding their backs and gate-keeping their resources against potential negligence claims, instead of providing positive care for people in need.

We need an end to HIV hysteria. More danger is created by a climate of witch-hunting than by allowing choice about HIV testing.

Being positive is not committing a crime.

Having an HIV test is not giving a cure.

Forcing the child to have a test does not guarantee their future health.

It does guarantee stigma and may remove their care from their parents. Testing is not automatically in the child's best interest.

Would social workers take a pregnant mother to court for smoking?

No one, local authority or otherwise, has the right to believe that their interest in a child can over-rule the informed consent of the parent.

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