Detained Aids activists to protest over airport ordeal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 November, 2003, 12:00am

Several HIV-positive Aids activists who were detained for nearly a week by Mumbai airport authorities in a mosquito-infested quarantine lock-up have been released.

The six activists, all Indian nationals who worked for non-governmental organisations, were incarcerated after returning home from an international Aids conference in Kampala, Uganda.

'It was all so horrific,' one of the six said. 'Airport authorities laughed at us and sniggered when we told them what they were doing to us was unfair. Is this how they behave with Aids patients even after 25 years of the epidemic?'

The group was detained after airport officials determined they did not have inoculation certificates for yellow fever, even though the World Health Organisation exempts travellers with HIV/Aids from carrying such documents.

Yellow fever vaccine can be fatal for people whose immune system is invaded by HIV/Aids, so such travellers are required to produce exemption letters from a doctor.

But despite the six producing medical waivers issued by government doctors, the Mumbai airport immigration doctor allegedly demanded a bribe of US$100 each to let them go, which they were unable to pay.

'This is abhorrent,' said Stuart Flavell, international co-ordinator for the Global Network of People Living with HIV/Aids.

'This incident is yet more evidence of the discriminatory and inhumane attitude of some government officials,' he added.

The detained workers are demanding an inquiry and will petition a court to take action against the federal civil aviation authority and local Aids-control officials, who repeatedly failed to come to their aid.