Indigo Refuses to Carry Dead Body of HIV+ child citing “non-existent” NACO guidelines

Indian airlines Indigo refused to carry the body of a HIV positive child from Assam at Chennai Airport. The incident happened on June 28th, when an ambulance company called the cargo staff at Indigo to enquire if they accept the body of HIV+ people. The airline called back after sometime refusing to do the same.

The incident came to light after The Telegraph reached out to the airlines for their response and reported it. In an email response to the newspaper, Indigo talked about “scientific evidence” about HIV being recovered from corpses between 11 to 16 days. It said that HIV falls under “category A of dangerous good” and is forbidden in pax and cargo aircract. They also pointed to certain guidelines by NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation), though NACO officials denied having such guidelines.

The email stated, “According to the Naco policy, infectious HIV has been recovered from human corpses between 11 and 16 days after death in bodies stored at the usual mortuary temperature of 2 degrees Celsius (unlike other virus and bacteria). It is unclear how long infectious HIV may persist in corpses left to decay at normal room temperature, but HIV has been cultured from organs stored at 20 degrees Celsius up to 14 days. In this context, it is recommended not to carry humans affected by the HIV virus. In addition, the HIV virus falls under category A of dangerous goods, which is forbidden in pax and cargo aircraft. According to the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) manual UN ID 2814, it is forbidden to accept HIV-infected (human retrovirus) on passenger aircraft.”

A NACO official told The Telegraph, “What the airline stated is scientific evidence and not Naco policy. The virus does not spread through the air. What the airline stated is, in fact, related to blood and blood-related products. It is out of context. Will an HIV-positive person be considered dangerous? Just because an HIV-positive person is carrying the virus that doesn’t mean we will prevent that person from coming close to us. Naco has no policy in cases outside its purview. This is within the purview of the aviation sector.”

Indian Parliament passed the HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act 2017 that prohibits discrimination or unfair treatment of HIV-infected people on any grounds. The ACT states, “No person shall, by words, either spoken or written, publish, propagate, advocate or communicate by signs or by visible representation or otherwise the feelings of hatred against any protected persons or group of protected person in general or specifically or disseminate, broadcast or display any information, advertisement or notice, which may reasonably be construed to demonstrate an intention to propagate hatred or which is likely to expose protected persons to hatred, discrimination or physical violence.”

However, it remains unclear if Indigo airlines can be said to have violated the Act since it was the case of a dead person.

Sukhdeep Singh