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UNAIDS against Goa Govt's decision for compulsory HIV test

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 31 (UNI) UNAIDS is trying to dissuade the Goa government from implementing its decision to introduce compulsory testing of HIV/AIDS before marriage saying it would be counter-productive and drive people underground instead of coming out in the open about their HIV status.

Mr Denis Braun, UNAIDS representative in India, told UNI that he would visit Goa next week and try to convince the state government that the controversial decision would have negative impact on its HIV/AIDS control programme in the state.

He said that first and foremost the state government's decision would bring the HIV status of the people out in the open and with the kind of stigma attached to the disease it would make them more vulnerable to discrimination.

Confidentiality of the HIV status is the basic human rights and this kind of compulsory testing would be violation of their right to life with dignity, Mr Braun said.

It would also result in people trying to hide their HIV status by getting fake negative test reports. People indulging in high risk behaviour may evade testing by going away from Goa to states where testing is not compulsory to get married.

Moreover, what would happen to the incidents of HIV positive person planning to marry another HIV positive person, he wondered and also pointed out the high cost of compulsory testing of the entire population ''This decision would only have negative impact on the HIV/AIDS control programme of the state government. We being the UN agency cannot oppose the state government, we can just advice it not to implement such a decision in haste as it would be counter productive.

I will go to Goa next week to convince the state government against it on the basis of international experiences that UNAIDS has,'' Mr Braun said.

Internationally, many models are available, he pointed out and said that in Europe also two countries--France and Switzerland-- have compulsory HIV testing. But there also, the HIV status is not made public. It is just for the individual to know his HIV status and modify his life style without revealing it to anyother person, he informed.

The UNAIDS official said in case of Goa, where arranged marriages also take place, families could agree for HIV testing without the test results being made public.

Lauding the Southern states for bringing down the HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, Mr Braun said that was possible due to strong policies and programmes adopted by these governments. He said that more such steps are need in other states especially in North Eastern region and East India. He said that recent reports have shown that the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is not as low as expected in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Asked about the drastic reduction in the number of HIV/AIDS cases revealed by National AIDS Control Organisation, he said that was due to a new and larger number of Sentinel Surveillance Sites in various parts of country. However, he said that comparing it from the data of the previous years was not proper as they were taken from other sites. ''Its like comparing mangoes with oraganes.'' Stressing the need for better access to HIV testing for people, he said people belonging to high risk group of sex workers, gays and truck drivers are generally marginalised and do not have access to testing and treatment facilities. This needed to be improved.

Admitting that the treatment, care and support system in the country was not adequate, he said that more financial investment should be made to increase their availability. However, the 'Three by Five Initiative' of WHO and UNAIDS have payed rich dividends by increasing the treatment facilities to millions of people worldwide.


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