The Lok Sabha on Tuesday gave its nod to a crucial bill, which now will protect those who are affected by HIV / AIDS. The parliament passed HIV / AIDS bill, to ensure equal rights to people affected by HIV / AIDS.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill will protect the rights of access to education, healthcare, public facilities, and public offices for HIV / AIDS patients. Whereas, section 14 of the bill, which says access to treatment to HIV positive people “as far as possible.” is still unchanged, and many social activist continue to oppose this clause.
Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Eldred Tellis, Executive director of Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust said, “This bill is not worth for those who need treatment. I think the government should show some concern in terms of giving treatment. We are still opposing to the clause stating ‘as far as possible’ regarding the treatment. This needs to be changed”.
Eldred Tellis added, “In this bill they are defining HIV person as ‘protected person’. We wanted it to relate to the other members too, like sex workers, men having sex with men etc. They should have been considered as the affected persons”.
Priti Patekar Co-founder of Prerana organisation, which works to protect women and children from the threat of human trafficking said, “Whenever such a law comes into effect, it is more important to know the fact, how this law will facilitate marginalize people like sex workers. They are still an ignored part of this society,”
However Union Health Minister JP Nadda promised verbally in the house, to implement a test and treatment policy where all individuals who have tested positive for HIV infection will receive free treatment. Healthcare activist say nothing concrete has been assured by the Minister.
According to officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 21 lakh people are living with HIV / AIDs in the country. India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. Despite the change in time and advancement, HIV and AIDS are still considered to be taboo in India and therefore, this new bill brings a fresh lease of hope and respite.
Terming this as ‘historic’ Union Health Minister JP Nadda said, “Government stands committed for free treatment of HIV patients. The bill has a provision under which action would be taken against those who create hatred against HIV / AIDS patients.”
According to the Section 37 of the bill ‘whoever contravenes the provisions of Section 14 shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or both’.
Section 14 of the bill says ‘The measures to be taken by the Central Government or the State Government under section 13 shall include the measures for providing, as far as possible, Anti-retroviral Therapy and Opportunistic Infection Management to people living with HIV or AIDS’.
The bill was first introduced in the Parliament by Gulam Nabi Azad during the UPA tenure; it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March. Now the bill will be sent to the President for the final assent.