January 16, 2012

Pass HIV/AIDS bill in Winter session: NGOs to govt

Expressing disappointment over the "apathy" shown towards HIV-infected people, activists on Wednesday demanded the government pass the HIV/AIDS Bill in the Winter Session of Parliament.

Activists from a group of NGOs and Lawyers` Collective, legal advocacy group that drafted the Bill, said the Bill is very important in the light of the large-scale discrimination faced by the HIV positive people in the country.

"It`s unacceptable that the government has not brought the Bill to the parliament till now," Pradeep Dutta of the Nai Umang Network of Positive People said.

The Bill was finalised in July 2006 by Health Ministry and was sent to Law Ministry in August, 2007. It has been pending since March 2010, when the Law Ministry cleared it.

"We met Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad yesterday and he said the Bill has been sent again to the Law ministry. We want to ask why such an important Bill, on which so many lives depend, is being shuttled between the two Ministries?" Dutta said.

Anand Grover of the Lawyers` Collective said, "the stakeholders were consulted through out the drafting of the bill, but suddenly the health ministry is being discreet and confidential over the Bill.

"We urge the government to take the community back in confidence and pass the Bill in its original form without tinkering with its important clauses such as easier access to treatment," he said.

Grover claimed that the Ministry was not in favour of including the provision for free health treatment to HIV patients in the Bill.

The present HIV programme of the government provides first line anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs) to people infected with HIV for free, but second line and third line treatment is not easily accessible.

The activists said there was a need to scale up the establishment of more second line and third line ARV treatment and demanded some crucial facilities to diagnose HIV which they allege are not available in government centres.

Speaking on discrimination faced by HIV affected women, Mundrika from Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) said, "There have been several occasions when doctors have refused to treat pregnant HIV positive women.

"Don`t they have the right to be mothers? Don`t they have the right to live a life with dignity? The Bill will reduce the stigma that we face," she said.

The Bill provides legal redressal against HIV-related discrimination in both public and private sector. It also provides for free and complete treatment to all HIV-positive people.

The other crucial aspects of the Bill are -- right to confidentiality, right to consent, special provisions for women like right to residence and counselling and rights of children to property and care.

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