Maharashtra Proposes Mandatory HIV Tests Before Marriage

Armen Hareyan's picture

A committeeof lawmakers in India's Maharashtra state on Wednesday proposed that the statepass a law requiring HIV tests before marriage, The Hindu reports (The Hindu, 2/1). Ifapproved, the law would be the first of its kind in the country. According to BBC News, the proposal will not be enforced until afterextensive discussions with the public have taken place (Pinglay, BBC News,1/31).

Maharashtra Public Health Minister Vimal Mundada said that if it is approved,the law would increase HIV awareness and reduce the spread of the virus (TheHindu, 2/1). Jaya Nair, a lawyer for Maharashtra'sLaw Graduates Association, said mandatory HIV tests before marriage arenecessary because of the state's high HIV prevalence. Nair said the proposalwas not meant "to intrude" on people's "space" but addedthere have been increasing numbers of cases in which one partner does not knowhis or her HIV status or "deliberately hides" an HIV-positivediagnosis before marriage. Nair said that such cases place the HIV-negativespouse and any children at an increased risk for HIV.


The National AIDS Control Organisation, which advocates against mandatoryHIV tests, is opposed to the proposal and said that HIV tests before marriageshould be administered only if both partners have agreed to undergo the tests.Siddharth Narrain, a human rights lawyer, said HIV tests before marriage shouldnot be compulsory, adding, "I am not comfortable with forcing people to doany kind of testing." Prajakta Bengali, a management executive, said thepublic likely will be opposed to the proposal and added that implementing sucha policy "would be near impossible."

A similar proposal in India'sAndhra Pradesh state was abandoned in 2006, BBC News reports (BBCNews, 1/31). In addition, the government of the Indian state of Goa in September 2006 decided to allow HIV tests to bevoluntary for couples registering for marriage, Goa Chief Minister PratapsinghRane announced. Goa in April 2006 said it intended to proceed with a plan,announced in March 2006, to amend the Goa Public Health Act to require couplesregistering for marriage to undergo HIV tests (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/19/06).

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