HIV law promises equality

April 12, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:30 am IST - New Delhi

Parliament passes Bill guaranteeing no discrimination in treatment, jobs

With Parliament passing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017, on Tuesday, people living with HIV and AIDS are guaranteed equal rights in medical treatment, admission to educational institutions and jobs.

Terming the unanimous passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha “historic”, Health Minister J.P. Nadda said the government “stands committed to free treatment of HIV patients”.

‘People-centric’ law

Maintaining that the Bill was “people-centric”, the Minister said it strengthened the rights of people infected with HIV.

“It is not the case that before the coming of this Bill, these people [those infected with HIV] were not empowered. But with the passage of this Bill, they will get more powers,” he said.

The Bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited.

Asserting that there will be no discrimination against persons infected with HIV, Mr. Nadda said, “Whosoever does not adhere to the provisions of the Bill will be penalised. There would also be civil and criminal proceedings against them. Action would be also taken against those who come between the implementation of the provisions of the proposed Bill.”

The law provides a broad legislative framework for the response to HIV in India and is the first national HIV law in South Asia.

The legislation prohibits discrimination against people living with, and affected by, HIV in a range of settings, including employment, education, housing and health care, as well as with regard to the holding of public or private office, access to insurance and freedom of movement.

It also bans unfair treatment of people living with and affected by HIV with regard to accessing public facilities, such as shops, restaurants, hotels, public entertainment venues, public facilities and burial grounds.

The Bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.

UNAIDS upbeat

Welcoming the passage of the landmark legislation, UNAIDS said that the Bill would improve access to justice for People Living with HIV . “This is an important step forward for people living with and affected by HIV in India and around the world,” said Steve Kraus, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific.

“This legislation begins to remove barriers and empowers people to challenge violations of their human rights.”

Asserting that India runs the second largest Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) programme in the world, Mr. Nadda said the rate of new HIV infections had dropped by 67% from 2.5 lakh to 85,000 and AIDS related deaths have declined to 54%, which is more than the global average.

He said the government had spent Rs. 2,000 crore on ART alone and this was a 100% Centrally sponsored scheme as the “government is committed to (treating every patient) and no one will be left out”.

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