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Plan to make HIV test mandatory before marriage

Expert says comprehensive health check-up a better alternative

Gulf News

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government’s plan to make HIV tests mandatory before marriage should be replaced by a comprehensive pre-marital health check-up, a medical expert said.

“We welcome the government’s move to mandate pre-marriage HIV testing, but our suggestion is to replace the Test with a health check-up as this would be the right thing to do,” said Dr Ishwar Gilada of People’s Health Organisation, an NGO working for the cause of prevention, control and management of HIV/AIDS since 1985.

The state women and child welfare department, headed by Varsha Gaikwad, is considering a bill to make pre-marital HIV testing mandatory and is seeking the opinion of various sections of society as well as NGOs working for the welfare of HIV patients and Unicef, among others.

The pre-marriage test would be a preventive measure for couples, especially women, who unknowingly marry a person with HIV and then suffer the consequences, feels the government.

In his advice to the government, Gilada says, “The right thing to do would be to insist on a comprehensive pre-marriage health check-up instead of only HIV test. It should include all possible tests—from blood group, Rh Type, to hereditary diseases like diabetes, thalassemia, haemophilia and sexually transmitted diseases.” This way, he says, better medical compatibility between partners can be ensured. And if it happens that a partner tests positive for HIV, he or she can be rejected on the grounds of being ‘medically unfit’ and won’t have to carry the stigma of an HIV/AIDS patient. If the couple decides to go ahead with the marriage, it is with the fullest knowledge and understanding, and therefore they cannot blame each other or the society, says Gilada.

He also cites the case of a similar regulation that was tried in Illinois, USA, in the early 1990s when marriageable people went out of the state and married to defy the system. However, it is hoped, he says, such regulations help create awareness and motivate people to go for a check-up voluntarily.

“With 27 years of experience in the prevention and control of HIV in India, we can say that it is the women, unaware of their partner’s HIV status, who become victims after marriage—sometimes a deliberate act by the man who knows of his HIV status and at times out of ignorance.”