HIV positive people expresses concern over HIV/AIDS Bill


Imphal, Nov 14: People Living with HIV and civil society organisations of Manipur gathered in Imphal today to discuss about the HIV draft Bill recently cleared by the Union Cabinet. The Bill takes a progressive step in addressing stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV. But there is lack of clarity in providing free and complete HIV treatment. The Bill is expected to come up for passage in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.
Daisy David, Health Associate, World Vision India said, “The challenges faced by HIV affected children are multifaceted, and require immediate response beyond prevention and treatment. The issue becomes important as 1,38,456 children are living with HIV/AIDS (NACO 2015, HIV Estimation in India).
“Every year about 21,000 children are infected through mother–to-child transmission and thousands of children are affected because their parents are HIV positive. We are happy that, this HIV Bill will serve as a tool to protect our children from discrimination, starting right from school. This Bill also recognizes the right to property, access to healthcare services and information which will further help those infected to lead a dignified life.”
After the Bill was tabled in Rajya Sabha in February 2014, it was sent to the Standing Committee on Health for its consideration. HIV positive people from across the country made oral and written submissions to the committee, demanding the deletion of the term ‘as far as possible’ from the chapter of treatment.
“We have been demanding free and complete treatment as a matter of right for the last 10 years. By including ‘as far as possible’ in the Bill, the government has diluted the chapter of treatment,” said Daisy David in a statement issued here today.
People living with HIV need to take antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines throughout their lives with strict adherence levels. Although the government provides treatment through ART centres, these stocks gets easily exhausted putting the lives of HIV positive people in danger.
The Bill protects HIV positive people and their family members from stigma and discrimination in both the public and private sector. It also states that nobody shall be tested and treated for HIV without their informed consent and the HIV status of a person cannot be disclosed to others without the person’s consent.
The HIV Bill was submitted to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2006. From then on, it has seen various impediments and now finally, after 10 years, the Bill has been approved by the Cabinet in October 2016.
The Bill will be tabled in the Winter Session of the Rajya Sabha, .
The Bill aims to protect the rights of HIV positive people and their family members. The Bill, for the first time, brings private sector within the ambit of discrimination. Once this Bill becomes a law, an HIV positive person being discriminated in public or private sector can take legal recourse against such acts of discrimination.
The HIV and AIDS Bill, 2014 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 Bill seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provide for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, place obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV and create mechanisms for redressing complaints.
This Bill protects the rights of children by preventing discrimination against admission or continuance of children in schools and protecting the property of children affected by HIV or AIDS.
While most PLWHIV are happy with the Bill, there are severe challenges in accessing ART and drugs for Opportunistic Illnesses for PLHIV due to shortage of drugs and also discrimination in healthcare sector, the statement claimed. However, even this Bill does not provide access to treatment as a right.
“We feel that that changes need to be made in Section 14 (1) as it restricts the right of HIV-positive persons to Antiretroviral treatment and Opportunistic Infection (OI) management by the qualification of as far as possible. Thus ‘as far as possible’ should be deleted from the chapter of treatment”, it said.


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