India to Provide Jobs and Food Rations to AIDS Patients

The federal government in India is proposing to offer jobs and food rations to AIDS patients.

The government told the Supreme Court Tuesday that it would offer jobs under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The act is essentially aimed at guaranteeing unskilled manual jobs for one hundreds in a year for rural households.

Though wages are paltry, still the scheme is hailed as some positive attempt at bettering the lot of the rural poor. Now the government is saying it would extend the scheme to HIV/AIDS-infected too.

Also one lakh people 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 submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, by way of affirming the governments commitment to bettering the lives of HIV positive people.

Additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam also told the court the number of ART centres – providing free treatment and run under National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) – would be increased from 174 to 650 by 2010.

Providing 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, Subramaniam 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," he stressed.

In an important remedy for HIV positive people seeking treatment, the government also warned, "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."

While the counsel for nonprofits described the proposals as a revolutionary gesture on the part of the government, the court itself directed the government to expeditiously implement them.

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