The announcement by the India’s Parliamentary Forum on HIV and AIDS that pregnant mothers will be required to undergo an HIV test, should be viewed with concern. UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe is reported to have agreed with the forum's stand.
The forum has stated that passing the HIV virus to a child is a human rights violation as positive children suffer stigma and discrimination. But mandatory testing is itself a human rights violation.
The availability of preventive drugs makes it imperative that pregnant women are offered the opportunity to be tested and those who are HIV positive be offered drugs to prevent the transmission of HIV to the foetus.
However, pregnant women who test positive may face harassment from the family. Those who voluntarily ask for testing are likely to be better prepared to face social and family harassment. This is not the case for those who are forced to undergo testing.
Further, when public hospitals don't provide basic care, how can one insist that all pregnant women be tested? If the government cannot assure prenatal care for all pregnant women, how will this rule be implemented?
The Indian government should spend its energy on public awareness and on ensuring that people have access to health care,
(Source: AIDS-INDIA eforum)