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Indian State Maharashtra Proposes Mandatory HIV Tests Before Marriage

February 4, 2008

A committee of lawmakers in India's Maharashtra state on Wednesday proposed that the state pass a law requiring HIV tests before marriage, The Hindu reports (The Hindu, 2/1). If approved, the law would be the first of its kind in the country. According to BBC News, the proposal will not be enforced until after extensive 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 (The Hindu, 2/1). Jaya Nair, a lawyer for Maharashtra's Law Graduates Association, said mandatory HIV tests before marriage are necessary because of the state's high HIV prevalence. Nair said the proposal was not meant "to intrude" on people's "space" but added there have been increasing numbers of cases in which one partner does not know his or her HIV status or "deliberately hides" an HIV-positive diagnosis before marriage. Nair said that such cases place the HIV-negative spouse and any children at an increased risk for HIV.

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

A similar proposal in India's Andhra Pradesh state was abandoned in 2006, BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/31). In addition, the government of the Indian state of Goa in September 2006 decided to allow HIV tests to be voluntary for couples registering for marriage, Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane 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 couples registering for marriage to undergo HIV tests (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/19/06).

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