The Goa state government is planning to introduce legislation for making HIV Test mandatory for couples, before registration of marriage, reported News18. The proposal is being inspected by the law department of the coastal state to make it a mandatory practice.
Goa Health Minister, Vishwajit Rane, said, “The plan is to make the HIV test mandatory for couples before registration of marriage in Goa. Once the legislation is cleared by the law department, we can introduce it in the state Assembly during the upcoming monsoon session”.
State government’s stand on the proposal
State’s health ministry released an official statement on 10th July, pointing out that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 guarantees the rights of those who are affected with this syndrome, it does allow for cases where mandatory testing can be carried out.
The government in an official statement asserted that with this proposal, it does not really aim to collect the data of HIV status, rather it wants to ensure that the partners conduct the tests and disclose the result to each other.
“In this spirit, the Goa government wants to ensure that a person is not infected with HIV owing to ignorance or non-disclosure. The government will not collect the data on the HIV status of marriage certificate applicant. The government will only ensure that the partners conduct the tests and disclose the results to each other.”
HIV/AIDS prevalence in the state
The problem of the prevalence of these diseases was initially brought to fore in 2014, then Health Minister in the cabinet Laxmikant Yashwant Parsekar had said that “Goa does not have a single village unaffected by HIV infection”.
He further added that such cases stand at 15,000 in number while addressing the state’s legislative assembly.
Goa’s then-governor Mridula Sinha had said in 2015 that the state’s traditions have been badly hit by AIDS and drug addiction. Speaking on the eve of the state’s Liberation Day, she said, “On the social front, we have to keep Goa away from evils such as crime, drug addiction and AIDS. These vices are against our traditions.”
The same bill was introduced by the Congress government in 2006
Dayanand Narvekar, who happened to be the health minister in the Congress government in 2006, did manage to get the state cabinet to approve the proposal for legislation that intended to make HIV testing mandatory before marriage. However, Narvekar’s plan could not meet execution and collapsed before it could have been turned into a law.
Then Chief Minister of the state Pratapsingh Rane endorsed the initiative warmly and Narvekar while addressing Media on March 17, 2006, said that the legislation would be discussed extensively in and out of the state.
He also stressed the need for a national debate on issues like mortality and personal privacy which forms a prime component in legislations of the similar sort. The Government at that time also offered free medicines to cancer and trauma-affected patients seeking treatment in state-owned Goa Medical College Hospital.
The mixed Views of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
The proposal for mandatory HIV testing proposal received mixed responses from the UNAIDS. While the UNAIDS stood in support of the mandatory HIV testings before blood transfusions, they did not really want this very idea to be implemented at an individual level on Public health grounds.
“UNAIDS/WHO support mandatory screening for HIV and other blood-borne viruses of all blood that is destined for transfusion or for the manufacture of blood products. Mandatory screening of donors is required prior to all procedures involving the transfer of bodily fluids or body parts, such as artificial insemination, corneal grafts and organ transplant. UNAIDS/WHO does not support mandatory testing of individuals on public health grounds.”
According to UNAIDS, voluntary testing is perhaps a better option than mandatory tests, because of those taking the tests voluntarily will more likely act in a manner that will prevent further transmission. However, a strict note should be taken about a proper counselling being done whilst these tests are being carried out.
State activists concern over the proposal
In the recent past, Social activists have argued over the fact that making HIV test mandatory before marriage may lead to more and more couples eloping instead of seeking registration of marriage for fear of social ostracisation. Some have even argued that the law poses a threat to a person’s right to privacy which has been bestowed as a fundamental human right in the Indian constitution.
A thorough inspection should be ensured regarding the concerned state-certified agents, which will be conducting these tests, and their authenticity also remains to be a critical factor demanding strict attention.
However, it still remains to be seen, if the proposal will get turned into law or end up with the same fate as it did in 2006.