To remove the social stigma attached to the dreaded disease HIV/AIDS and ensure equality for all, a Bill was recently passed in both the Houses of Parliament.
Initially proposed in 2014 by the then Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, it was finally approved in Rajya Sabha on 21 March, 2017 followed by Lok Sabha on 11 April, 2017.
This HIV Bill is a means to provide equality to all HIV positive persons and any discrimination or unfair practice based on one’s HIV status is strictly prohibited by law. It also, safeguards the rights of HIV patients and provides various facilities for their growth.
Provisions of the HIV Bill:
- Any discrimination against HIV/AIDS infected people is strictly prohibited. Nobody can deny or terminate or treat unfairly any HIV positive individual in terms of employment, education, insurance, renting or buying property or medical care.
- No discrimination to access public places such as cinema halls, shops, hotels etc.
- HIV testing prior to recruitment or admission in education or medical institution is prohibited by law.
- Disclosure of one’s HIV status can only be done by the consent of the affected person.
- Legal cases involving a HIV positive person to be given priority and the identity of the individual to be protected during court’s proceedings.
- HIV positive person below the age of 18 years has the legal right to live in a household and utilise its facilities.
- Any messages spreading hatred towards HIV affected person or disclosing personal information is prohibited by this bill.
- Any medical test or research to be conducted only after obtaining the consent of the affected individual.
- All HIV patients to be given free treatment and access to government welfare schemes.
- People living with HIV positive persons have the right to HIV testing, counselling, prevention and care.
- Confidentiality to be maintained always and no person should be forced to disclose his/her HIV status.
- The aim of the Bill is to end the epidemic by the year 2030.
- The Central as well as State governments shall take appropriate measures to spread awareness, provide Anti-retroviral therapy to patients to increase their longevity as well as take preventive measures.
- Any violation to the above Act to be taken care of by an ombudsman appointed by the State govt. The ombudsman will submit a report every 6 months mentioning the number and nature of complaints received and the actions taken thereafter.
Though the Bill is a positive move and brings a ray of hope for all HIV patients, this first-of-its-kind Bill passed in South Asia has some loopholes.
- The clause in the Bill states: providing free treatment for all ‘as far as possible’ and this phrase has been criticized by various groups working for HIV/AIDS demanding the removal of the said phrase.
- Also, there is no mention of legal options available to HIV people in case the medicinal stocks ran out, which is a very common occurrence.
Having said that, this HIV Bill will definitely pave the way for “eradication of ” similar other social stigmas prevalent in the society and help those affected live a dignified and decent life.
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