Soon, law to protect HIV+ patients from bias

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Denying patients suffering from HIV their right to work and any discrimination in their treatment could soon lead to jail terms.

The health ministry plans to table in the long-awaited AIDS anti-discrimination bill in the coming monsoon session of Parliament. The Bill seeks to prohibit any social or financial discrimination against those affected by the virus.

From Times of India.

Health minister A Ramadoss said in Mumbai on Saturday, “We will move the Bill for an Act to deter discrimination against HIV patients in workplaces, educational institutions and treatment centres. It is worrisome when doctors turn away HIV patients or corporates shun people because they are HIV positive. Another worrying factor is schools refusing admission to HIV positive children.”

The Bill – originally prepared by activists, lawyers and experts at the National AIDS Control Organisation – has been pending with the law ministry for the past few months.

“Though the health ministry has accepted it, the law ministry has raised some concerns,” said Anand Grover, director of NGO Lawyers Collective.

India has an estimated 2.7 million HIV patients as per a 2007 study by Naco.

The Bill, in its current form, has underlined provisions like right to equality, right to autonomy, right to privacy and health, right to safe working environment and right to information for all HIV positive people.

Ramadoss, who was speaking at the HIV Congress 2008 on Saturday, said the National AIDS Control Programme is in the process of refining its data to determine the number of HIV patients per district in order to provide them better care.

Ramadoss also criticized doctors for the “irrational” use of powerful Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) for short periods which reduced the reaction of patients to the drugs and raised the cost of treatment. “At present, it costs the government Rs 5,000 a year to provide HIV patients with treatment with the first line drugs but the second line drugs cost close to Rs 1 lakh per month,” he said.

The government has set up 147 treatment centres and is expected to treat three lakh patients free of cost in the next three years, he added.

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