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Government comes up with amended anti HIV discrimination bill

hivThe government is likely to come with an amended HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, which was approved by the cabinet today.

The HIV and AIDS Bill has been drafted to safeguard the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV.

The provisions of the Bill seek to address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances, the government said today.

The Bill seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provides informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment. It also seeks to place obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV arid create mechanisms for redressing complaints.

The Bill also aims to enhance access to health care services by ensuring informed consent and confidentiality for HIV-related testing, treatment and clinical research.

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).

The requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited.

Every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household.

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

The Bill also provides for Guardianship for minors.

A person between the age of 12 to 18 years who has sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS affected family shall be competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age to be applicable in the matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment, amongst others.

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”.

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

According to the Bill, the Central and State governments shall take measures to prevent the spread of HIV or AIDS, provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management for persons with HIV or AIDS, facilitate their access to welfare schemes especially for women and children.

The Govt. will also take measures to formulate HIV or AIDS education communication programmes that are age appropriate, gender sensitive, and non-stigmatizing, and lay guidelines for the care and treatment of children with HIV or AIDS.

Every person in the care and custody of the state shall have right to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and counseling services. The Bill suggest that cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed’ off by the court on a priority basis and duly ensuring the confidentiality.

There are no financial implications of the Bill. Most of the activities are being already undertaken or can be integrated within the existing systems of various Ministries under training, communication and data management, etc.

The Bill makes provision for appointment of an ombudsman by State Governments to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and penal actions in case of non-compliance. The Ombudsman need not be a separate entity, but any existing State Government functionary can be deputed or given additional charge.

There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India. Even though the prevalence of HIV is decreasing over the last decade, the Bill would provide essential support to National AIDS Control Programme in arresting new infections and thereby achieving the target of “Ending the epidemic by 2030” according to Sustainable Development Goals.

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