Alternative HIV test: HC gives govt a week to get expert opinion

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday granted a week’s time to the state government to get an expert opinion in response to a public interest litigation that seeks a change in the standard testing method for detection of HIV infection prior to blood transfusion.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published:September 14, 2012 3:07 am

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday granted a week’s time to the state government to get an expert opinion in response to a public interest litigation that seeks a change in the standard testing method for detection of HIV infection prior to blood transfusion.

The PIL has been moved by one Babubhai Thakkar,appearing party-in-person before the division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala.

According to the petitioner,the present method of detecting HIV in India is ‘Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)’ test or the antibody test,which has a window period of three months,meaning an infection acquired in the past three months cannot be detected.

The petition says that ELISA test can be replaced by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test where there is no window period. The petitioner has argued that PCR test was not included in the standard HIV testing in the country for reasons best known to the governments both in the state and the Centre.

He added that in 2006,the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) had announced that India was the first country in Asia to have introduced PCR.

However,PCR is not made mandatory at blood banks and hospitals,and the petitioner has sought to make the same mandatory.

Advocate Girish Das,who is appearing in the matter,said,“The central government and NACO have told the court that it may pass appropriate order on the petition. However,the state government has sought a week’s time to seek an expert opinion over the issue.”

PIL seeks change in central policy to fight HIV/AIDS

Highlighting the contradictory versions of two departments of the central government over the issue of cure of HIV infection,a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Gujarat High Court seeking change in the Centre’s policy to combat HIV/AIDS.

The PIL has contended that so far,the policy has given wide publicity on the issue on the basis of a theory which says there is no cure for HIV infection and which has resulted in a social stigma for the patients infected with HIV.

A division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala has issued notices to the respondents,including the central government,and kept it for further hearing after a fortnight.

According to petitioner Babubhai Thakkar,the Centre’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare includes four departments two of which are Department of Yoga & Naturopathy,Unani,Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and Department of AIDS Control.

Thakkar has stated that the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO),which is part of Department of AIDS Control,has been mainly conducting the research and prevention programmes on HIV/AIDS. And NACO has been advertising for the past many years that HIV/AIDS is not curable and can only be prevented.

The petitioner has added that this dissemination of information has formed a particular opinion among general public on the disease and it has attached a social stigma to HIV/AIDS patients.

He has further contended that due to this stigma,many patients are committing suicide and in rural areas they face boycott by people.

However,the Department of AYUSH of the same ministry has been of the belief that any disease can be cured,including HIV/AIDS,the PIL said.

It added that ancient methods of medicine included in AYUSH can cure this disease but the proper information on that regard is not reaching out to the general public because NACO is concentrating mainly on the allopathic treatment.

The petitioner has sought direction to the authorities to correct the awareness drive about HIV/AIDS with emphasis on the fact that the disease can be cured with the Indian system of medicine,AYUSH,while giving details of the cured patients.

He has also sought free treatment for all the HIV/AIDS patients.

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