The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the introduction of official amendments to the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, 2014 to ensure that patients with the disease are treated with as much respect and dignity as others.
The provisions of the Bill will address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen existing programmes by bringing in legal accountability, and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
The Bill seeks to control and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against infected persons, and provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment. It also places obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV and creates mechanisms for redressing complaints. The Bill aims to enhance access to health care services by ensuring informed consent and confidentiality for HIV-related testing, treatment and clinical research.
The amendments to HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill list various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited. These include denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, renting homes, and providing insurance, besides insisting that every HIV-infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy its facilities.
The Bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV-positive persons and those living with them.
A person between the age of 12 and 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 in the matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment, amongst others.
The Bill states, “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 Centre and state governments shall take measures to provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management therapy for patients with HIV or AIDS.
However, the Bill has not introduced any financial implications as 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.