Karnataka has become the first state in India to have a charter on the rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The charter was released here on Tuesday by state Health Minister B. Sriramulu, on the occasion of World AIDS Day.

“Karnataka became the first state in the country to have a charter on rights of PLWHA. This shows our commitment and strong resolve to reduce the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS,” Sriramulu told reporters on the sidelines of the function.

Karnataka has around 245,000 HIV infected people.

The charter was signed by Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) and Karnataka Network of People Living with HIV (KNP+), a network of associations of HIV positive people in all 29 districts of the state.

Speaking about the evolution of the Charter, Saroja Putran, President of KNP+, told IANS, “We see the charter both as a statement of commitment and a statement of resolve to fight against HIV/AIDS.”

She said the charter was evolved with active participation of people living with HIV from all the districts. Two organisations - Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) and Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) also contributed, she added.

The charter has the backing of KSAPS, KHPT, CFAR, USAID and other agencies and NGOs.

“We see the charter as an expression of rights of people living with HIV and its our collective obligation and responsibility to reach out to people living with HIV in different parts of the state including those living in highly difficult circumstances and residing in remote villages and small towns,” added Saroja, who is HIV positive.

The charter calls for equal treatment to HIV positive people, liberty, autonomy, security of the person and freedom of movement for PLHIV, supportive and enabling environment for vulnerable groups, access to health care and appropriate treatment for PLWHA, freedom to own and inherit property by HIV-AIDS patients and employment opportunities.

National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) has marked Karnataka as a “highly prevalent state”.

The state has 245,000 HIV infected people and 33,000 are suffering from AIDS, according to the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS). However, only 22,000 of these are registered with the society.