Bill to protect HIV community from bias gets approval

October 05, 2016 01:32 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:13 pm IST - New Delhi

Establishments keeping records of information of HIV positive persons shall adopt data protection measures.

A huge red ribbon kept as an awareness to express solidarity of people with HIV/AIDS. File photo

A huge red ribbon kept as an awareness to express solidarity of people with HIV/AIDS. File photo

The Union Cabinet, on Wednesday, approved the long-awaited amendments to the HIV Bill, granting stronger protection to the country’s HIV community.

The Bill prohibits discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV) in accessing healthcare, acquiring jobs, renting houses or in education institutions in the public and private sectors.

There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India and the percentage of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment currently stands at a mere 25.82% as against the global percentage of 41%, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Diseases (GBD).

The “HIV and AIDS Bill, 2014” will bring legal accountability and establish a formal mechanism to probe discrimination complaints against those who discriminate against such people. “The Bill seeks to prevent stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. These amendments will allow families that have faced discrimination to go to court against institutions or persons being unfair,” said J.P. Nadda, Health Minister at a press briefing.

Establishments keeping records of information of PLHIV have been asked to adopt data protection measures as the Bill requires that “no person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order.”

The Bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance.

“The Bill seeks to prevent stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. These amendments will allow families that have faced discrimination to go to court against institutions or persons being unfair,” said J.P. Nadda, Health Minister at a conference after the Cabinet nod.

With the amendments, establishments keeping records of information of PLHIV have been asked to adopt data protection measures as the Bill requires that “no person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order.”

The Bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies). Further, requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited.

‘Step in right direction’

The Bill comes at a time when the national HIV programme has weakened due to Budget slashes and patients are facing drug shortages across the country.

“This is a step in the right direction. We also need to address the inadequate funding, the procurement system that is resulting in drug shortages and the lack of clarity in the HIV policy. The programme has become low priority and my hope is that this Bill will empower civil society to hold those stigmatising the HIV community in contempt,’ said Dr. K. Sujatha Rao, former Director General, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

According to the proposal, every HIV infected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household.

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