India’s Andhra Pradesh state, which has the country’s largest number of HIV cases, is set to become the first to make it mandatory for couples to take a HIV test before marrying, officials said on Wednesday.
“Since condom use is not very popular, we are considering tough measures like HIV testing before registration of weddings,” Health Minister K. Rosaiah told Reuters.
He plans to ask lawmakers to sign a bill into law in the next session of the state assembly, expected to start in March.
But UNAIDS, the United Nations agency fighting HIV/AIDS, said such a move was not the way forward.
“Compulsory testing will not work,” UNAIDS India chief Denis Broun told Reuters.
People would buy fake HIV-negative certificates which could result in serious social and health consequences for couples and their families, he said, adding the government should focus instead on providing free pre-marriage counseling on a range of issues, including health.
Officials in the state disagree.
“It will be morally good if both the men and women undergo a HIV test before getting into wedlock,” Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy said while opening a HIV testing camp for elected representatives in the state assembly.
Andhra Pradesh accounts for 1.5 million of India’s 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS.
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.