The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a significant Bill that seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to ensure that those living with the disease are not discriminated against.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017, will "empower the people affected with the disease by giving them legal sanctity", Health Minister JP Nadda said.
The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 21.
Calling the Bill patient-centric and progressive in nature, the minister added, "The government will provide free treatment to the people infected with HIV. The ministry will soon come out with a new test and treat policy for the people living with HIV for providing free treatment to them."
Main features of the Bill
This means that if you are an HIV positive person, or if you live with someone with HIV, you cannot be discriminated against.
This includes the "denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment" with regard to employment, educational institutions, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies).
HIV testing as a prerequisite for getting a job or employment or healthcare services is prohibited as well.
HIV infected or affected people who are below the age of 18 years have the right to stay in a shared household.
Disclosure of HIV status
It is up to you whether or not you want to reveal your HIV status. You cannot be compelled to disclose your HIV status except with your informed consent (or in cases where required, by a court order).
Institutions that maintain records of information relating to HIV positive people have to use data protection measures.
Courts have been directed to dispose off cases related to HIV positive people on a priority basis.
If an HIV positive person is involved in a case, the court can pass orders to conduct proceeding by suppressing the identity of the individual, on camera or can also prohibit other people from publishing information revealing the identity of the former.
The government's role
People with HIV or AIDS, who are under the care or custody of the state, have the right to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and counselling services.
The government's role is to take measures to:
- prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,
- provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management to people with HIV/AIDS,
- ensure they have access to welfare schemes,
- spread awareness around HIV and AIDS in an age appropriate, gender sensitive and non-stigmatising manner
- lay guidelines for the care and treatment of children with HIV and AIDS.
A state government appointed official will look into complaints related to the violation of the Act and also into the provision of health care services.