No HIV Test? No Wedding In Russia’s Ingushetia
Published on 11 December 2017 by RFE/RL
No HIV test? No wedding. That simple rule will apply in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Ingushetia starting next year.
In what they say is a bid to cut AIDS rates, local officials are instituting mandatory HIV testing for all couples hoping to marry.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the head of Ingushetia, said that HIV testing was needed, but admitted it was not likely to be popular.
“I know that many potential grooms will not be thrilled with tightening the rules to marry, but these are timely and necessary measures that will significantly reduce the percentage of families falling apart and will minimize the threat of spreading dangerous diseases and preserve the health of the nation,” Yevkurov said.
Such testing was instituted in neighboring Chechnya in 2011, and is mandatory in other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia.
While acknowledging the benefits of HIV testing, human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have long opposed any moves to make it compulsory.
Russia indeed has experienced record-high HIV infection rates. Two-thirds of all new HIV cases in Europe in 2015 — infecting just over 98,000 people — were recorded in Russia alone, according to data from the World Health Organization.
In 2016, the HIV infection rate in Russia rose again, this time 5.3 percent in comparison to 2015. That translated into some 103,500 new HIV infection cases.
However, data suggest HIV infection rates in mostly Muslim Ingushetia are among the lowest in the Russian Federation.
In announcing that the mandatory testing will take effect in 2018, Ingushetian Health Minister Marem Arpakhanova framed the issue as a way to empower couples.
“Any person can ask his or her partner before marrying whether they’ve been tested for HIV. There is nothing bad in this. Everyone is treated with understanding. No one has anything to fear, especially if they are not infected,” Arpakhanova was quoted as saying by TASS on December 10.
Muslim spiritual leaders have already suggested that Muslim clerics not conduct wedding ceremonies unless HIV-testing documentation is provided, but with one proviso. Only men, according to Ingushetia’s Muslim spiritual leaders, should be required to have testing done.
Chechnya instituted such prenuptial, mandatory HIV testing in 2011. Similar requirements exist in Central Asia, including Tajikistan. China, Nigeria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are among other countries with such a requirement.
No such law has been instituted across the entire Russian Federation. In 2015 Russian State Duma Deputy Magomed Selimkhanov, from the ruling United Russia party, introduced such legislation, but it has yet to be enacted into law.
Human Rights Watch has said international research “suggests that mandatory testing undermines human rights and is potentially detrimental for public health.”
Written by Tony Wesolowsky based on material from Current Time TV