Bangalore: Karnataka is planning to enact legislation to make HIV tests mandatory for couples planning to marry and for politicians seeking to enter the state legislature.
"There is a consensus within the government on the need to bring in such a legislation within a year," Health Minister R. Ashok told IANS. Karnataka is one of six high-prevalence HIV states in the country.
Ashok said his ministry had discussed the modalities of the upcoming law and it would be moved at an "appropriate time".
"Stringent steps need to be put in place to curb the spread of the disease," he said.
The legislation would ensure that all prospective legislators have to undergo the test.
"Politicians should set a precedent for the common people to follow. People fear to undergo the test. Once politicians are made to take it, they would shed their fears," Ashok said.
The legislation would make HIV tests mandatory for all couples before marriage.
Karnataka has over 500,000 HIV positive people, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the afflicted populace in the country.
According to the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society, HIV prevalence rate in the state is 1.56 percent as against the national level of below 1 percent.
Most cases are from 12 high-risk districts including Bagalkot and Belgaum. The prevalence rate in some districts is as high as 3.8 percent.
According to Ashok, the government was planning to undertake an opinion poll on the proposed mandatory testing. "Apart from consulting legal experts, an opinion poll is being conducted by health officials."
Pointed out that the central health ministry was not in favour of such mandatory testing, the minister replied that health was a state subject.
"The state government is free to take new initiatives to control health problems like AIDS. We know the sensitivity of the issue but the government needs to do something for the larger benefit of people," he said. Andhra Pradesh is planning similar legislation.