Times of India
27 November 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Foreigners coming to get a look and feel of ‘Incredible India’ won’t be required to declare their HIV status while filling their visa forms. India has lifted all travel restrictions against HIV positive patients. In 2002, the Union health ministry had issued a notification, stating mandatory test for HIV for India–bound foreign nationals has to be removed from visa forms.
However, some embassies and consulates failed to enforce it, and continued to display the requirement of HIV test certificate on their websites as well as on visa forms.
On September 17, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent an email to all its embassies and consulates, clarifying that there are no travel or residency restrictions for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) coming to India.
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Second–hand smoke (SHS) is killing six lakhs annually, including 1.65 lakh children before they reach their fifth birthday. A study by WHO in 192 countries – the first of its kind to assess all deaths caused by SHS has found that tobacco kills nearly 5.7 millions globally every year, including 5.1 millions who die from their own smoking. P 13 MEA has asked all offices to remove the requirement for HIV test from all visa forms available with Indian embassies and consulates.
The action was prompted by a parliamentary question on April 15 by Dr E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, MP and a member of the Forum of Parliamentarians on HIV and AIDS (FPA).
Welcoming the initiative, Oscar Fernandes, MP and president of FPA, said, "I am pleased that India has clarified its position to lift HIVrelated travel restrictions."
J D Seelam, MP and general secretary FPA, said, "We welcome the step taken by MEA as globally there are ambiguities about India’s standing on travel regulations based on HIV status."
Dr Natchiappan added, "We commend the leadership displayed by the Indian government. FPA believes that these types of travel restrictions limit the rights of people living with HIV and fuel discrimination and stigma."
Thousands of people across the world have been deported or denied entry into countries because they are HIV–positive. Stigmatising HIV–positive individuals is contrary to effective public health programming.
Official data shows that 66 countries deny entry, stay or residence to HIV–positive individuals – of these nations, 26 deport migrants who test positive, seven refuse permission to stay beyond a certain time bar and six deny entry even for very short–term stay.
"These restrictions are in blatant violation of human rights, they stimulate stigma and discrimination and actually hurt the response to the HIV epidemic," said Kevin Moody, International Coordinator and CEO, Global Network of People Living with HIV.
Union health secretary, K Sujatha Rao, believes that irrational discriminatory laws should be lifted. "In India, we don’t have any laws against residence or visit by HIV patient," she pointed out.
Dr Charles Gilks, UNAIDS country coordinator, said such regulations were issued by many countries in the 1980s when little was known about HIV, and there was more of confusion and fear about the virus. Globally, there is no evidence that such restrictions prevent HIV transmission or protect public health. MEA’s move upholds India’s commitment to human rights and dignity of all people including those living with HIV.
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