BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Talking Point: South Asian Debates  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 29 November, 2002, 19:26 GMT
HIV prevention: Should there be compulsory screening?
Microsoft chief Bill Gates and the US Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, have both expressed concern over the spread of HIV/Aids in the region.

Now in response to pressure from womens' groups the state of Andhra Pradesh is seeking to introduce compulsory HIV testing for couples wanting to marry.

The local health minister believes the human rights of innocent young women, married off to men who hide the fact that they are HIV positive, must be defended.

But citizens groups have described the measure as a serious violation of a person's fundamental rights.

Latest figures from UNAids have revealed that the number of people worldwide living with HIV/Aids is now well above 40 million.

Experts have said that across the whole of east, south and south-east Asia, there were almost another million new infections during 2002.

As the UN marks World Aids Day on December 1st, we ask what's the best method of prevention? Can mandatory testing help or would the infringement of civil liberties be too great?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

We are talking about saving millions of people's lives here

Andrew, UK
There should definitely be mandatory screening, not just in Africa, but worldwide. In the UK, it has been estimated that many people who have the virus are unaware of it, and are passing it on to others. Mandatory testing means those who have it will be aware, and can prevent from passing it on to other people. And before all the civil liberties groups start piping up, we are talking about saving millions of people's lives here, would you really want to stop that from happening?
Andrew, UK

HIV has what is known as the "window period". This period is when your body has not produced enough antibodies to be detectable to the HIV test. Therefore, if people who are positive are mandatory tested during this period they will come back negative. This is one reason why mandatory testing will not work to curb HIV infection rates. The encouragement of voluntary testing every 3-6 months has been proven to be more effective.
Daniel, HIV/Aids Educator, USA

The best method of prevention is "No sex outside marriage" and "Compulsory testing before marriage".
Abdul Wahid S, Madras, India

Aids just like mercury. It can go anywhere, anytime. We have to use all ways to tackle this disease, no matter whether it is education or mandatory testing.
Anthony Liu, Taiwan

I agree that individual rights are going to be invaded to have testing for HIV. But what about the rights of women to know whether they can contract a deadly illness. Not necessarily all marriages are from free will and so the women at least should know if they will be in danger of contracting HIV and also to prevent themselves from passing it to children. In the US tests are required in many states and I strongly advocate testing for the sake of both women and children in India.
Shaina Pereira, United States

Information, education and encouraging voluntary testing and counselling should be the focus

Divya Sreenivas, India/USA
Studies have shown that mandatory testing for HIV/AIDS is not as effective as encouraging voluntary testing. Given this and the fact the India does not have a good record of enforcing anything rigorously, I don't believe that mandatory testing will be an effective tool in averting India's HIV/Aids crisis. Information, education and encouraging voluntary testing and counselling should be the focus. Testing centres should be established in places where marginalized groups can access them.
Divya Sreenivas, India/USA

Stopping the spread of Aids can only be achieved by education. Despite developing countries' calls for cheap drugs, no cure for Aids actually exists. The only reliable way to curb Aids is abstention and screening of blood and people must be educated about it now! A catastrophe has already developed in Africa and another one is brewing in Eastern Europe and maybe even Asia. Eastern Europe already has the world's fastest growing HIV infection rate and I only hope we can stop it before the disaster reaches African proportions
Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia

Indulging in promiscuous sexual behaviour can only be detrimental to humanity. Indulgence in it is one more form of addiction, which drains human energy away from the more constructive activities of life. Life is not just sex. Life may have a more profound meaning to it. It is time that the mass media (such as the Hollywood and Bollywood) start broadcasting such messages along with their programmes that "sell" glamour and sex. Such messages would be like the statutory warnings that appear on cigarette packs.
Kapali Viswanathan, India/Australia

In countries where the groom (and, in many cases, his family as well) hide the fact that he is infected, such a law would be necessary to prevent jeopardising innocent lives, especially in countries like India where the societal compulsion to marry and arranged marriages are common.
Amit Ukil, India

If somebody who is Aids positive, thinks that disclosing it openly at the time of marriage is a violation of human rights, he is violating human rights of his partner. The basic problem lies in the outlook of the society towards the victims of Aids. Those unfortunate ones have to undergo tremendous torture like an untouchable. Unless people are educated and made aware that Aids is not a contagious disease, there will be tendency to hide the facts about it.
Shrinivas, India

Compulsory HIV testing before marriage is a positive initiative. Definitely it is one way to prevent the spread of HIV. I don't understand why Civil Liberties groups are crying for rights on such a disaster. Who will enjoy their Civil liberties if they die in such an epidemic. This is nothing new. In Michigan, USA there is a state law for mandatory syphilis test before marriage. Does it violate the US citizen's civil rights? Definitely not. Prevention is the best medicine.
Shamsul Alam, Canada

The ground reality in India is that no one wants to acknowledge the Aids epidemic. Aids is considered to be a disease caused by immoral sexual behaviour. Many people find the idea to spend money for people who contracted AIDS, that could otherwise be used to prevent other disease, such as diarrhoea which causes thousands of deaths among children, repulsive. The best method of preventing the spread of Aids is education and awareness. Mandatory testing will be very difficult to enforce especially in the high risk groups and would do nothing to prevent its spread.
Rajesh, India

South Asia Debate
Listen here

Key stories

Case studies




See also:

22 Nov 02 | Health
19 Nov 02 | South Asia
14 Nov 02 | South Asia
02 Jul 02 | Health
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asian Debates stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asian Debates stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |