India’s Roman Catholic Bishops Call for Mandatory HIV Testing Before Marriage
India's Roman Catholic bishops have called for national legislation requiring couples to undergo HIV testing before obtaining marriage licenses in an effort to prevent HIV transmission, the AP/News24.com reports. The country's 149 bishops on Monday at the annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India discussed how the church should reorganize its health outreach program to address HIV/AIDS (AP/News24.com, 1/13). Bishop Yoohanan Chrysostom said that the church plans to annul marriages in which a partner deceives another partner about his or her HIV status before getting married (NewIndPress.com, 1/13). "But the efforts of the church would be strengthened only if appropriate legislation is enacted by the government," a statement released by the conference on Monday said. Chrysostom added that mandatory HIV testing would "put fear into the minds of young adults" about contracting HIV, according to the AP/News24.com. The treatment of HIV/AIDS is a "major mission" for the church's 4,745 hospitals and clinics in India. In addition, the church runs 39 hospitals that exclusively treat HIV/AIDS patients (AP/News24.com, 1/13).
Gay Advocacy Groups Form 'Manas'
At least 10 gay advocacy groups in India have formed a platform called "Manas," which is Hindi for "thought," in order to fight HIV/AIDS among gay men and women and street children, the Associated Press reports. The campaign will first target Kolkata, which has an estimated 200,000 street children. "Sex happens among street children at a very early age, making them a medium-risk group [for contracting HIV]. So we have decided to involve them in our initiative," Saurav Banerjee of the Prajak voluntary group said. In addition, the group will focus on "spreading awareness and providing support and counseling" to gay men and women, according to Amitava Sarkar, of People Like Us. Homosexuality is banned in India under a law first enacted while the country was under British rule. Manas members called on the government to withdraw the law, the Associated Press reports. "Homosexuality is practiced clandestinely and it will remain so if the government continues to consider gays and lesbians criminals. And this will not help fight AIDS among homosexuals," Sarkar said. The campaign is funded by the Government of West Bengal, which agreed to finance the program because it does not specifically target gays, Suresh Kumar, an official with the West Bengal state AIDS Cell, said, according to the Associated Press (Banerjee, Associated Press, 1/13).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online as part of kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.
Also available online is a kaisernetwork.org video feature on HIV/AIDS in India. The report -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- includes interviews with people who are on frontlines of India's efforts.