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Sunday, February 03, 2008

HIV Blood Testing: Na Baba Na

We were at a social gathering some years back. There were about eight desi couples, indulging in after-dinner chit chat.

I brought up HIV blood testing by suggesting that if we could consider ways to create a clime for testing the prospective couples for terminal diseases such as HIV aids. I was not prepared for the ensuing outbursts.

The first cases of AIDS in India were not reported until 1986, in Bombay and in the southern industrial city of Madras, and until then there had been every hope that the nation would avoid the devastation that has occurred in countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana, where at least a quarter of the adult population is now infected with H.I.V.

HIV is not spread by sexual transmission alone. It is also spread by tainted blood transfusions, needles, drug addicts and carriers who pass them on to unsuspecting mates.

There are at least a hundred thousand long-haul truckers shuttling back and forth across the subcontinent, more than two million prostitutes, two hundred and seventy-five thousand brothels, and tens of millions of seasonal workers who come to the big cities for a few months each year. AIDS travels along the truck routes as efficiently as white blood cells do along the arteries of the human body—

Please do not be lulled by the recent reports indicating that the UN has padded the number of those infected with HIV or AIDS globally. The bottomline is it is terminal.

Have you visited a hospice? Has a friend of yours died? If yes, then you need little convincing of the havoc it causes for those infected and their families.

There are many agencies and NGOs that are running awareness and treatment programmes globally, including India and Pakistan.

A blood test prior to marriage would certainly be a step towards protecting an innocent person from being infected. (Caveat: it takes up to three months after infection for the HIV Aids bodies to show up in a test.)

A BBC news report says:

A committee set up by the Indian state of Maharashtra
has provisionally approved the mandatory HIV testing of couples before marriage.

Lawyer Jaya Nair of Maharashtra Law Graduates Association has petitioned the Mumbai High Court and the Supreme Court.

The news report also mentions that there is opposition to this initiative. Even the UN argues against making the testing mandatory.

"Na baba, na, even if I agree to get my daughter and the prospective rishta to undergo this testing, my extended family would go up in arms. And I can say good bye to any other rishtas coming for my other children. We will be socially ostracised," said Sara.

These sentiments were echoed by others. Lack of trust in testing procedures, the quality of analysis, fraudulent reporting were other reasons presented in addition to social ostracizing.

Over the years I have heard other arguments against this testing. We should spend more on eradicating malaria, or polio or diabetes.

Yes, we should. But we should also reinforce our efforts to prevent the spread of HIV Aids. This is not only terminal and affected the patient, but it also affects the family and strains health care worldwide.

A multi pronged effort is the need of the hour. Education, awareness and prevention should be the route.


Blogger Me said...

if you want to bring this there (on Desicritics) write to me




February 03, 2008 6:46 AM  

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