The Sunday Mail
Gone are the days when couples used to shun paternity tests due to exorbitant costs and prolonged periods before the results could be released.
Then, the services were unavailable in the country and therefore the DNA samples had to be taken to South Africa for the tests, which is why they were expensive and time-consuming.
However, the services are now locally available and accessible for willing individuals.
Presently, paternity test services are being offered locally at National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) and AiBST Testing Centre.
Paternity test is defined by the Medical dictionary as a test, especially of DNA or genetic traits, to determine whether a given man could be the biological father of a given child.
NBSZ public affairs manager Ms Ester Massundah said her organisation only handles paternity tests from legal cases.
“Our organisation deals with legal practitioners in cases involving paternity tests, we do not talk to clients or individuals,” said Ms Massundah.
“Individuals should request or book for the test in writing through their lawyers and we will also respond in writing giving them the nearest date for them to come for the test.”
She said paternity tests at NBSZ uses DNA cells from blood samples at a cost of US$350 and the results are released within 10 to 15 days.
Ms Massundah said most individuals come for the test at their organisation through the magistrates’ courts or lawyers.
At AiBST centre, however, individuals can come for paternity test with or without lawyers, as long as they have the required documents.
Chief scientific officer Professor Collen Masimirembwa said his organisation charges US$500 for the whole process and the results are released after two weeks or less.
“There are two major types of paternity tests that people request for; the one through a court order to settle disputed paternity cases and the ‘‘peace of mind’’ test where individuals have an interest to know if they are the biological father of a child or not,” said Prof Masimirembwa.
“If a couple decides to visit us without involving lawyers, both the mother and father have to bring their national identification cards, passport-size pictures and birth certificates of the children to be tested.
“In circumstances where a couple has been given a court order to settle disputes over paternity cases, then the couple should also bring the court papers.”
He said in cases of maintenance disputes, it is possible for the father to approach a lawyer who would write a letter to us requesting for the services.
At AiBST, DNA samples are collected through buccal (the inside of one’s cheeks) swaps.
According to the organisation, the buccal swaps process does not hurt the donors’ body during collection and it is very friendly to children who are scared of needle pricks.
“It is mandatory that a couple is only given results if they come to collect together because paternity testing results have implications to all concerned, the mother, child and father,” Prof Masimirembwa.
“We also offer pre-results counselling for all the concerned parties which is important for several reasons, including the need for the couple to have a shared and well-informed understanding of the meaning of the test to be done as well as the possible implications of the results.”
He said it is not mandatory to have the mother to determine paternity because the test can still be done with samples from the child and the said father.
The AiBST testing centre has been offering the paternity tests since June 2013.