IndiGo cites data to defend ‘refusal’

Body of an HIV-positive child from Assam was allegedly refused transportation at Chennai airport

By Gaurav Das in Guwahati
  • Published 9.07.19, 1:46 AM
  • Updated 9.07.19, 1:46 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
An IndiGo plane. (Prem Singh)

The customer relations wing of IndiGo (InterGlobe Aviation Ltd), in an email to The Telegraph on Monday, spoke of “scientific evidence” that “infectious HIV has been recovered from human corpses between 11 to 16 days after death in bodies”.

This follows a mail to the airlines for a response to an incident at Chennai airport where the body of an HIV-positive child from Assam was allegedly refused transportation.

The email said the “HIV virus falls under category A of dangerous goods, which is forbidden in pax and cargo aircraft”.

The airlines cited a policy of the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco), saying, “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.”

It added, “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.”

AIDS activist Jahnabi Goswami slammed the airline for posting “blatant lies”.

She said the airline was excusing itself for its “discriminatory” behaviour and “using the Naco policy as a cover to hide from the truth”.

She said there was “no such Naco policy” and was mulling a letter to the ministry of civil aviation to highlight the point that such “discriminatory” behaviour may be repeated by other private airlines.

“We all know how HIV is transmitted. There are no restrictions in conducting a post-mortem on HIV-positive bodies. There are dos and don’ts in handling bodies. A body shouldn’t be touched with bare hands. I will write a letter to the ministry of aviation. Such an incident may be repeated by other airlines,” she said.

The Telegraph contacted a Naco official in Delhi who said, “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.”

The email mentioned that on June, 28 a cargo staff received a call from an ambulance company to confirm whether the airline accepts the body of an HIV-infected baby. The staff called back conveying that he will not be able to accept the body.