The long pending HIV/AIDS Bill, seeking to stop the discrimination against the people living with HIV virus, has finally been introduced in Rajya Sabha, thus making it alive though the term of the Parliament ends without passing it.
“At present, India is estimated to have 2.39 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the third highest number after South Africa and Nigeria. Currently the epidemic is more prevalent in high risk groups. It is therefore important for these groups to access services such as treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing, condoms, clean needles and syringes to prevent transmission of HIV to the general population,” union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the statement of object and reasons of the bill that was tabled on February 11.
The bill prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on the HIV status and makes it clear a competent and positive person can be removed only if the individual possess “significant risk of transmission of HIV” to other persons in the workplace or if his identity is kept under wraps.
The HIV/AIDS Bill was first submitted to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in 2006, and has ever since shuttled between the health ministry and law and justice ministry with little progress.
Some of the key provisions in the HIV Bill are prohibition of discrimination in employment, education, healthcare, travel, and insurance in both the public and private sectors; and taking non-coerced, written informed consent for HIV testing, treatment and research. The Bill recognizes an HIV patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality about his or her HIV status, with some exceptions, and access to free treatment by the state.
As the Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha, it will not lapse once the term of the present Lok Sabha comes to an end. It is now expected to go to the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare for their recommendations. The standing committee will deliberate and suggest modifications.