Women folk dancers were tested for HIV/AIDS by health department officials before they attended a fair at a temple for Goddess Sita in Madhya Pradesh’s Ashoknagar district on Sunday.
Following String Reveals’s report, the Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO) of Ashoknagar was transferred to Bhopal while the district administration constituted a three-member committee to probe the matter.
The folk dancers were tested for HIV/AIDS at a makeshift facility in the temple. However, the authorities were allegedly in violation of three key rights for HIV/AIDS testing – the right to informed consent, the right to confidentiality, and the right to discrimination.
The National Commission For Women has sought a report within five days, adding that the testing was in “violation of the dancers’ right to live with dignity”.
The HIV/AIDS testing of the women folk dancers was filmed and photos were circulated on social media.
Ashoknagar CMHO, Dr Neeraj Chhari, claimed that the HIV/AIDS testing was not new and was conducted last year as well. He claimed that the women folk dancers had given their consent and that the tests were just a precaution “to be on the safer side”.
“It’s not the first year that Rai folk dancers were tested for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis-B. This was the second straight year that the tests have been conducted. The tests of the 10 women folk dancers which were conducted with their visible consent, and in no way meant we were doubting them,” Dr Chhari said.
“But to be on the safer side the tests were conducted,” he added.
When String Reveals sought a response from Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Dr Prabhuram Choudhry in the state Assembly on Monday, he said he will get back after talking to the CMHO. Meanwhile, Culture Minister Usha Thakur said, “Let me find out.”