October 6, 2016 2:13:52 am
THE Union Cabinet Wednesday approved the amended HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014. Once the Bill becomes law, discriminating against people with HIV or AIDS may lead to a jail term of up to two years, and a maximum penalty of Rs 1 lakh.
The draft law lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive people, and those living with them, is prohibited. Once it becomes law, it will become illegal to deny, terminate, discontinue or treat HIV/AIDS patients in an unfair manner at work, in educational establishments, healthcare services, while they are renting property, or denying them medical insurance, among others.
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The Bill seeks to address HIV-related discrimination by introducing an element of legal accountability and establishment of mechanisms to address grievances. The draft law provides for informed consent and confidentiality in treatment of HIV/AIDS patients — “no person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order,” the Bill states. It makes it imperative on state governments and the Centre to provide anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people with HIV/AIDS.
There are approximately 21 lakh HIV-positive people in India.
According to the draft law, organisations with 100 employees or more must have a complaint officer to look into grievances of HIV-positive people, and every state will be required to have an ombudsman to look into violations once it becomes law. “This Bill seeks to address the issue of stigma towards AIDS/HIV-positive cases and discrimination meted out to them. The second motive is to give such persons an enabling environment so that, like other citizens, they can work and have the right to every facility,” said Health Minister J P Nadda.
The requirement for HIV-testing as a prerequisite to get a job, or accessing healthcare or education, will also be banned. Establishments that keep records of information of employees with HIV/AIDS are required to adopt data protection measures.
The Bill lays down that every HIV-infected or affected person below the age of 18 has the right to live in a shared household. It prohibits publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV-positive people, or those living with them.
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