April 13th, 2017
The parliament passed the historic Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 on 11th April. The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha on 21st March, 2017 and prohibits discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIVs) on grounds of treatment, employment and workplace. It provides for complete confidentiality, helps in safeguarding patients’ rights, and also creates a proper grievance addressing mechanism.
About the bill
This bill was first introduced by Ghulam Nabi Azad, the then Minister for Health and Family welfare on 11th February, 2014. It was a first of its kind bill in the entire South Asia.
As per studies conducted in 2015, India has 2.1 million people affected by HIV, making it the third largest country in terms of population affected by the disease. India is ranked third only after South Africa and Nigeria.
Image Courtesy: vishwagujarat
Key highlights of the bill:
- It prohibits any kind of discrimination against affected people in terms of employment, admission to educational institutes, renting property, insurance (unless based on actuarial studies) and standing for public or private offices.
- People affected with HIV are entitled to access public facilities such as shops, restaurants, hotel, public entertainment venues, public facilities and burial ground, without any sort of discrimination.
- This bill aims to provide the affected people with proper treatment and access to good health.
- The bill prohibits anyone to publish information or promote hatred against those who are HIV positive.
- It gives provision to the affected person to safeguard his/her property. He/she can live in a shared household without any bias and utilise all the shared facilities.
- Any HIV test, medical treatment or research would be conducted only after the person’s informed consent. The HIV status would be kept completely confidential, if required, by court’s order.
- All the HIV affected people to have right to prevention, testing, treatment and counselling services. Therapies such the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and infection management to be provided. The State and the Central Government will also provide welfare schemes especially for women and children.
- The bill also states that priority should be given to cases related to HIV positive persons, at the same time maintaining complete confidentiality.
- An ombudsman will be appointed in every state to enquire about complaints regarding violations of the act.
10) Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted by suppressing the identity of the person, or in camera, and to restrain from revealing the identity of the person.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda said that HIV infections have dropped by 67% and the deaths caused by AIDS has dropped by 54%, which more than the global average. He also claimed India runs the second highest Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) programme in the world.
This bill has, however, has come under scanner over the section 14(1), according to which the State and Central Government will provide free medical treatment “as far as possible”. MPs, including Shrikant Shinde from the Shiv Sena and Asaduddin Owaisi from the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen requested in the House that the phrase “as far as possible” be removed from the legislation.
Furthermore, civil groups working with HIV patients in India stated that the patients have no legal options in case the stock runs out.
The Logical Indian appreciates the government’s efforts to safeguard people affected with this deadly disease. The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 is the right step towards bringing a ray of hope by pulling out people affected by HIV/AIDS from social alienation, and giving them access to proper healthcare.