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Parliament Passes Bill Ensuring Equal Rights For HIV Positive People

The Lok Sabha, on Tuesday, reportedly passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017. The bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 21, strengthens the rights of HIV positive people, and ensures that equal and fair treatment be meted out to them.

Terming the unanimous passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha as “historic”, Health Minister J.P. Nadda said that the Government “stands committed to free treatment of HIV patients”. Mr. Nadda maintained that the Bill was “people-centric”, and said that it strengthened the rights of people infected with HIV. Further, asserting that the Bill would prevent discrimination against people infected by HIV, he was quoted as saying, “Whosoever does not adhere to the provisions of the Bill will be penalized. 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.”

Salient features of the Bill:

  • Discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them has been prohibited on various grounds. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to: (i) employment, (ii) educational establishments, (iii) health care services, (iv) residing or renting property, (v) standing for public or private office, and (vi) provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies).
  • The stipulation for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education has been prohibited.
  • Disclosure of HIV status shall only be permitted with the affected person’s informed consent, and if required, by a Court order. Establishment keeping records of information of HIV positive persons have been directed to adopt data protection measures.
  • HIV positive persons below the age of 18 years have the right to reside in a shared household, and enjoy the facilities of the household.
  • Central and State Governments have been made responsible for (i) preventing the spread of HIV or AIDS, (ii) providing anti-retroviral therapy and infection management for persons with HIV or AIDS, (iii) facilitating their access to welfare schemes especially for women and children, (iv) formulating HIV or AIDS education communication programmes that are age appropriate, gender sensitive, and non stigmatizing, and (v) laying guidelines for the care and treatment of children with HIV or AIDS.
  • Courts have been directed to dispose of on priority basis, cases relating to HIV positive persons. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the Court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant.
  • The complaints relating to violation of the Act, as well as the provision of health care services shall be inquired into by an ombudsman, who shall be appointed by each State Government. The ombudsman is expected to submit a report to the State Government every six months, stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken and orders passed.

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