The Centre would soon bring in the long-pending law that would prevent discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients. The Health and Family Welfare Ministry will receive the draft law from the Law Ministry in next 10 days, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Thursday.
The proposed law has been in the pipeline for several years and activists have been demanding its immediate passage, while expressing disappointment over indifference shown towards HIV-infected people. They allege that the government was not showing any urgency on the issue and appealed to it to pass the HIV/AIDS bill in the winter session of Parliament.
A group of NGOs and Lawyers' Collective, a legal advocacy group that helped draft the HIV/AIDS Bill, said the measure was very important in the light of the “large-scale” discrimination being faced by HIV positive people.
Speaking at a function here to mark the World AIDS Day, Mr. Azad said the government would soon start ‘Red Buses' on the lines of ‘Red Trains' to create awareness about the HIV. “Wherever trains can't reach, we will use the buses.” Addressing the function, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the city government would provide Rs.1,600-2,000 assistance to HIV-infected children as well as children whose parents were infected by it.
Mr. Azad said the economic slowdown had resulted in decrease in funds from international donors. “Those funds have helped the country to bring down the numbers of HIV/AIDS patient to half during the last decade. However, I must say that the government is fully capable of continuing assistance at all levels be that to State governments or NGOs or self assistance groups.” The Minister assured all stakeholders in the field of AIDS control that India would continue to run the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP - IV) with or without external funding.
A sum of Rs.11,500 crore has been provided for NACP-III during 2007-12. The NACP-III has brought about a decline in the prevalence of the infection to 0.31 per cent with 50 per cent reduction in newer infections in the last decade.
As of March 2011, nearly 4.5 lakh people living with HIV in India, including 26,238 children, have received free Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) at around 1,000 ART centres and Link ART Centres. The universal access to second line ART in a phased manner and launch of infant and child diagnosis were some of the newer initiatives launched to combat AIDS, he added
Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed said the 12th Five-Year Plan would be oriented around health and family welfare. “The Planning Commission will fully support any endeavour by State governments or by NGOs for eradication of the menace,” she said.