AIDS Healthcare Foundation welcomes cabinet approval for HIV/AIDS Bill

New Delhi [India]: The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has welcomed the Union Cabinet’s decision to give its approval to the HIV/AIDS Bill years after its initial drafting.

It said that the Bill provides social security policies like education, employment, healthcare property rights and most importantly treatment and confidentiality.

“What we have understood is that the many amendments that were proposed in the various technical and Community consultations were incorporated and accepted by the cabinet. The provisions in the Bill will safeguard PLHIV-People living with HIV-from discrimination that is prevalent, including the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, healthcare services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and most importantly the provision of HEALTH/MEDICAL insurance – remarked Dr. V. Sam Prasad, Interim Country Program Manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation – India Cares. This is a big win for the people living with HIV in India and will lead to reduced levels of HIV stigma among the general population in the country – he added.

The Bill will protect us from unnecessarily being pushed about because of our HIV positive status and will safeguard human rights and entitlements of the PLHIV – People Living with HIV – in India. The PLHIV community is concerned on the smooth implementation of the Bill in India but is hopeful of a better tomorrow – Deepak (name changed) a PLHIV activist remarked in New Delhi. We are Thankful to the Prime Minister for “Keeping the Promise” for the PLHIV Community in India.

The estimated number of PLHIV in India is around 2.1 million and is the third largest HIV population of the world. With the acceptance and the implementation of the HIV/AIDS bill there is definitely a ray of hope for the 2.1 million people living with HIV in India. Every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household. The Bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.

The standing committee had earlier putdown the following recommendations:

Insurance cover: The Bill prohibits the denial or unfair treatment in providing insurance cover to HIV positive people, unless the unfair treatment is based on actuarial studies. The Committee recommended that all people living with HIV should be provided insurance cover without any discrimination. This should be preferably at the normal rate of premium or could be slightly higher than normal, but not at exorbitant rates.

Provision of diagnostic facilities for HIV: The Bill requires that the central government should provide anti-retroviral therapy and opportunistic infection management to HIV positive people, as far as possible. The Committee recommended that the Bill also mandate the provision of diagnostic facilities for people living with HIV by the central government.

Disposal of cases by the complaints officer: The Bill requires that a complaints officer be appointed in establishments employing more than 100 people. Similarly, a complaints officer must be appointed in healthcare establishments if more than 20 people are employed. The Bill does not specify the time within which complaints must be dealt with. The Committee recommended that the Bill provide that complaints be dealt with as soon as possible.

“This is a great amendment by the Indian Government. This bill will not only eliminate the discrimination faced by the HIV positive people but also provide them the social securities like employment, healthcare service, education property rights and many more. This bill will empower the people who are living with HIV. This is truly a great decision by the Indian government for the PLHIV community”, said Mr. Bismaya Kumar Raulo, Program Coordinator – Impulse India.

Adding to them, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla, AHF India Cares brand ambassador said, “The HIV/AIDS Amendment Bill is a bold step for a country like India which is having the 3rd highest HIV infection in the world. There are many positive changes made, the most significant one is that now a HIV positive person in India will have a legal right to get treatment /ART drugs which was not there earlier and cannot be denied treatment. This will also encourage the Government to increase the supply of drugs to ensure that they are available in the right time and place.” (ANI)