2.5m HIV patients to get NREGS cards

NEW DELHI: For 2.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS, mostly shunned by society, the Centre has decided to play employer by promising to provide them with job cards and employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

In addition, around one lakh people with HIV, who are receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) at 174 centres across the country, would be treated as belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category, ensuring them 35 kg of foodgrain every month under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).

These promises were part of the 19-point proposal made public for the first time by the Centre before the Supreme Court on Tuesday to make the lives of HIV positive people a lot better.

Dhananjay Mahapatra, for The Times of India

Responding to SC’s earlier directive, additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam told a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal that states and union territories would be asked "to ensure that all HIV positive people be provided with a job card and employment in accordance with the NREGA scheme".

It would also be ensured that "every HIV positive person on ART shall be provided with an Antyodaya Anna Yojana card", he said. Under the AAY scheme, every BPL family is provided with 35 kg of foodgrain (wheat at Rs 2 per kg and rice at Rs 3 per kg) per month.

When counsel for petitioner NGOs, Colin Gonslaves, termed the announcement as revolutionary, the Bench asked the Centre to incorporate it as an office order and send it to all state and UT governments.

Promising to increase the number of ART centres – providing free treatment and run under National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) – from 174 to 650 by 2010, Subramaniam said second line treatment for HIV positive people was in the pilot stage and would soon be made available to the needy.

All doctors and nurses in the public and private sector would be directed to immediately familiarise themselves and comply with the protocols and policies prepared by NACO, which would be made part of the teaching curriculum, the Centre said.

"All doctors, nurses and hospital staff, whether in public or private sector, shall treat HIV positive people in a professional and humane manner, treating them always with dignity and care. No doctor or nurse shall refuse to treat them on account of their positive status. In treating them, there shall be no discrimination or stigma whatsoever," it said.

In an important remedy for HIV positive people seeking treatment, the Centre said, "The Medical Council of India and the consumer courts are to take strict view of private practitioners who take advantage of illiteracy and poverty to prescribe wrong or unnecessary drugs or charge exhorbitant amounts. Irrational prescriptions using wrong dosage or wrong combinations shall be dealt with severely."

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