Cabinet approves amendments to HIV, AIDS Bill

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill 2014, extending the ambit of protections for HIV-positive people, prohibiting discrimination in jobs and education and improved healthcare access and privacy statutes.

The cabinet meeting here was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Civil society groups from across the country, including people living with HIV, welcomed the approval of the amendments.

The provisions of the bill seek to 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, makes provision for appointment of an ombudsman by state governments to inquire into complaints made under the Act,” said Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda.

The proposed law aims to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against affected persons, provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regards to their treatment, places obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV arid create mechanisms for redressing complaints.

The bill mandates that “no person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order”.

Welcoming the move, National Coalition of People Living with HIV President Manoj Pardesi said: “We have been demanding passage of this bill for the last 10 years. I hope that now there is no delay and the bill is passed in the upcoming Winter Session of the Parliament”.

HIV positive people have been demanding that the bill should provide free and complete treatment as a matter of right, as opposed to the bill tabled in 2014, which stated that state should provide HIV treatment “as far as possible”.

People living with HIV have been demanding that the phrase “as far as possible” be deleted.

“Many other countries like Vietnam and Kenya have passed their HIV laws years ago. It’s time that India doesn’t delay this anymore,” said Anand Grover, Project Director of Lawyers Collective.

According to official data, there are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India.