Several organisations working on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS on Monday made a vociferous demand for the immediate tabling of the HIV/AIDS Bill, 2009.
The Bill was drafted and finalised in 2006 by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry after country-wide consultations with stakeholders and sent to the Law Ministry. From 2007 to October 2009, the Law Ministry released four drafts, each omitting several critical provisions aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The journey of the HIV/AIDS Bill has been extremely long, characterised by the disappointing drafts, and public protests against various versions of the Bill that diluted its objectives and spirit, Daisy David of the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS (INP+), told at a press conference here.
It was disheartening to see the Bill shuttling between the two ministries for the past three years. “We need this Bill to fight discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS,” she said.
It contains special provisions to address the vulnerabilities of women and children to HIV, according to Manjula K. of Action Aid. “The Bill entitles a survivor of sexual assault, even if it occurs within marriage, to access HIV-related counselling and preventive treatment.”
Pradeep Dutta of the Nai Umang Network of Positive People said passing the law would make it easier for HIV positive people to access treatment. The Bill also provides legal immunity to the provider and the receiver of services under targeted intervention programmes like condom promotion among sex workers and distribution of clean needles to drug users. Now, organisations engaged in risk-reduction programmes faced harassment from the police and other public authorities as these were considered an abetment to sex work and drug use, Mr. Dutta said.
Sudha Jha from Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), Kolkata, said the targeted intervention programmes proved successful in controlling the spread of the epidemic. “The Bill provides a much needed fillip to these ongoing risk reduction services.”
Joe Thomas of AIDS-INDIA said: “In light of the routine rights violations faced by people living with HIV/AIDS, the tabling and passing of this Bill is extremely important. The government cannot afford to delay this any further.”