Goa reacts cautiously over compulsory HIV test

| 18 January 2002 22:18 IST

Goa is planning to make HIV test compulsory for the couple before registering marriage in the tourist state.

State health minister Dr Suresh Amonkar assured in this regard during the Assembly debate held on Thursday, on the issue of rise in AIDS cases in the state.

Rather than welcoming it wholeheartedly, reaction to the announcement is however mixed in nature. If implemented, Goa will perhaps be the first state in the country to take such a bold step.

A suggestion in this regard actually came from speaker Pratapsing Rane, the former chief minister belonging to the Congress. Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister Manohar Parrikar instantly supported it while Nationalist Congress Party leader Dr Wilfred de Souza, another former chief minister, also backed it.

Though it appeared that the whole House of 40 legislators might unanimously pass such legislation, people actually working among the victims having HIV positive and AIDS patients are reacting very cautiously.

"I agree with it in principle, but we are also bound by guidelines of the National AIDS Control Organisation which talks about secrecy of the matter", points out Prof. Bhaskar Nayak, principal of a government college, who also heads NSS section of students at state level.

Its effective implementation however seems to be not the matter of worry here, since every Goan goes for marriage registration due to the common civil code being practised in the former Portuguese colony. It provides for equal property rights for all the family members, including women.

Dr de Souza, the surgeon-turned politician, pointed out during the House debate that quite a few countries in the world have made such a test mandatory before marriage registration. But Dr Vithal Rege, his professional colleague and a skin specialist, feels otherwise.

"Even in principle, I do not agree with it. It should be more of a voluntary nature rather than making a compulsion", he states, adding that the law would not permit to acquire over private and secret matter of an individual.

On the other hand, the spread of AIDS is becoming a matter of concern in the tourist state as the official figures indicate rise of HIV positive cases, especially in the towns where continuous tourist inflow is also witnessed.

Against total figure of 522 HIV positive cases in 1988, it zoomed up to 801 last year, showing significant rise in the port town of Vasco having a red light area as well as talukas like Bardez, Tiswadi and Salcete, whose beaches are popular all over the world.

Even the number of AIDS cases has increased from 15 in 1988 to 48 in 2001. Some NGOs working in the field however indicate that the actual number of HIV positive cases itself should not be less than 15,000 in the tiny state alone.

Perhaps this is the quandary in which the NGO like Positive People is also caught up, due to which they are declining to comment with a firm opinion. "May be it is a step forward in curbing the soaring figures, but the need of the hour is to debate over all pros and cons of the issue before arriving at final decision", states its executive director Elizabeth Shivkumar.

While Dr Rege feels that the via media could be that people having HIV positive not getting married, Prof. Nayak feels such a step is more necessary rather than looking into the horoscope of the couple. "It is a more scientific approach, provided the secrecy is maintained", he feels.

But for NGOs like Positive People, who are actually involved in day-to-day interaction with the AIDS victims, it is an extremely sensitive issue. "No government should take any unilateral step without debating it thoroughly with all the concerned, including the actual victims", suggests Shivkumar.

It is not known what approach the government as well as members of the Goa Assembly will ultimately adopt towards this ‘revolutionary’ suggestion, but it has definitely sparked a debate that requires nation-wide reaction before setting a trend in a democratic country like India.

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Previous Comments

Its a good decision,atleast sex scandals will be controlled.

FEAR will be there,before taking wrong decision that they have to go for HIV test before marriage.

- sebastiao serrao, quelossim | 05 th October 2011 18:51

 

Dr. Amonkar have nothing to do. The issue HIV mandatory before getting married. What he means compulsory, you have many tasks to carry for example south Goa have malaria

problems due to mosquitoes, people of south suffering because either health department take care of the people like Dr. Amonker talk about compulsory before married to get examine of HIV. Come out doctor and do something about mosquitoes

to rid of Goa.Do not ask, put baseless question or debate what is not require.

- Brijesh Kanaujia, Goa | 15 th July 2010 18:10

 

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