Maharashtra Govt. Proposes New Plan For Compulsory HIV Test Before Marriage

Fight AidsMumbai: The Maharashtra Health Ministry’s Study Committee has proposed that testing for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) should be made compulsory before marriage.

The Ministry is unanimously considering introducing the proposal as a law within 6 months. If the decision is translated into law, Maharashtra would be the first state in the country to have such a law. The state of Andhra Pradesh announced similar plans in 2006 but they were abandoned.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting on Wednesday, presided over by Public Health Minister Vimal Mundada, 15 MLAs across political parties, an advocate and two doctors.

Officials attending the meeting said that compulsory testing was necessary in a state where HIV awareness is low. But they say that the proposal will not be enforced until extensive public consultations have taken place.

Vimal Mundada, the Public Health Minister said as India has one of the highest numbers of people with HIV in the world, such a move would create awareness and also control the spread of HIV.

In the two-hour meeting, the committee discussed the social stigma attached to the test, human rights and stressed on the need to educate school students about HIV. Dr Vimaltai Mundada, state health minister, said, “We will decide whether couples will need to produce the medical certificate at the time of the registration of marriage later.”

Endorsing the use of compulsory Aids tests before marriage in Maharashtra, Advocate Jaya Nair, representing the Maharashtra Law Graduate Association (MLGA), the NGO said the move was essential for a society where HIV prevalence is so high.

Jaya Nair said “We will extend our support in drafting the bill and implementing it.”

Another supporter of the proposal, radio broadcaster Pankaj Athawale, said that if it goes ahead the authorities will have to be on the alert for fraudulent certificates which might be used to cover up an individual's HIV positive status.

However, this proposal has opposition from different quarters.

According to the National Aids Control Organization Guidelines, no-one should be forced to undergo a mandatory HIV test, and the results should not be used as preconditions for employment or providing healthcare. The organization advocates that tests should be taken ahead of marriage only if both parties are in agreement.

Siddharth Narrain, human rights lawyer, "I don't think it should be compulsory. I am not comfortable with forcing people to do any kind of testing.”