According to newspapers, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is against allowing home tests for HIV/AIDS. The rationale, as presented by Times of India (Nov. 22, 2011) is based on worries that testing must be accompanied by counseling without which HIV positive individuals may be more likely to be at risk for depression and suicide.
It is a great idea to couple testing and counseling but I had a hard time resonating to this ideal scenario. I think I am warped by the IHDS fieldwork. We have been asking parents about their expectation about their children’s marriage. IHDS-I found that 95% of the married women ages 15-49 had arranged marriage, although their agreement and consent was normally obtained. Hence, it made sense to ask parents about their thoughts regarding marriage arrangements. I wanted to know if parents were thinking about HIV testing before marriage. As I started crafting these questions, I ran into major resistance.
One of our IHDS staff members is right now in the throes of arranging his daughter’s wedding. He was too polite to say it but it is clear he thought I was in the La La land asking about premarital HIV testing. So we went into one of our interminable discussions about marriage customs. He claimed that he had tried asking one prospective groom about seeing a copy of his degree and the guy and his family were so offended that the negotiations broke down. In such conditions who can ask for blood test? In his opinion that would be a surefire way of scaring off the groom. So we have compromised on two questions. First we ask parents if in their opinion it is important to do blood test to determine the health of the prospective bride or groom and then we ask them if they expect to do this when their child marrieds. Since I know my colleague is into serious horoscope matching, I decided we will ask similar questions about need for horoscope matching and expectations for horoscope matching before a match is fixed.
Lo and behold, pretty much most of our pretest data and early results suggest everyone thinks horoscope matching is vital and of course they plan to do it when their child’s marriage is fixed. But no one seems to find it important to focus on health risks to their child and have no expectation that it will be done. Hmmm… never mind the counseling, let us start recruiting astrologers and have them offer a combined service consisting of horoscope matching and blood tests!