COMMUNITY ADVISORY: Index Testing Could be Harmful to Your Rights and Well-Being

MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health & Rights advises all LGBT-led community-based organizations, networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and community members to never disclose sexual partners and/or needle-sharing partners to healthcare providers, counselors, or others if you feel this disclosure will put you or them at risk for adverse events.*

* “Adverse events” may include (but are not limited to):  violations of confidentiality; absence of consent procedures; forced or unauthorized disclosure of sexual history, behavior and/or orientation to partners, family, friends or others; intimate partner violence and/or gender-based violence; threats or acts of verbal or physical abuse; ridicule, harassment, or blackmail; failure to link to services or other unfriendly service delivery; denial of or delay in service acquisition.

Gay men and other men who have sex with men are in the best position to assess this risk for themselves, and any attempt to coerce or pressure an individual to disclose partners is a violation of human rights and should be reported immediately.

U.S. PEPFAR has recently proposed aggressive increases to the utilization of index testing, also called assisted partner notification services, as a key case finding strategy. While index testing can exhibit potential benefits if it is community-led, conducted ethically, and in a client-centered and rights-affirming manner, MPact and our partners around the world are acutely aware that gay men and other men who have sex with men are often subject to high levels of stigma, discrimination, and violence by health care providers and other duty bearers. In addition, when coupled with funder-driven pressure to meet target numbers for identifying people living with HIV, index testing can result in inappropriate and coercive service implementation.

It is always your right to decline sharing contact information of sexual partners and/or needle-sharing partners. Careful consideration about the impact of sharing this information is particularly important in countries where HIV non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission and/or same-sex sexual behavior is criminalized. Refusal to cooperate with sharing this information should in no way delay or disrupt your access to services.

Contact local civil society and/or MPact if you are facing a violation of your rights during index testing.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Are you aware of adverse events that have resulted during attempted index testing? Write to MPact at contact@mpactglobal.org to share your experience.