Union Health ministry implements HIV, AIDS Act
Kohima, Sep. 11 (EMN): A crucial legislation that would ensure equal rights for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) and enable them to avail treatment, admission to educational institutions, and secure jobs has come into force.
The Union Ministry of Health has announced implementation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Act through a gazette that was issued on Sep. 10.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section 3 of section 1 of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017, the Central government hereby appoints the 10th day of September, 2018, as the date on which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force,” the notification read.
Welcoming the Act, a member of the Committee of Experts (CoE) and director of the nongovernmental organisation Kripa Foundation Abou Mere expressed delight that after almost 16 years, the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, the erstwhile HIV and AIDS Bill, had been enacted.
Mere recounted details about the Bill, which was first drafted during 2001-2002 under the leadership of the then National Aids Control Organisation’s (NACO) Director General Prasada Rao, who is also the chairperson of the CoE for framing the rule under HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act 2017. The Kripa official said that a group of lawyers led by their director, Anand Grover, had held numerous consultations with key state players, and stakeholders.
Till 2017, he said, the Act was known as the HIV and AIDS Bill, and was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 21 2017; and in the Lok Sabha on April 11 2017. The bill then received presidential assent on April 20 2017 and notified on the gazzette on April 21 2017, and the enactment of the Act on September 10.
Citing some cases where justice could not be delivered to HIV positive people when the Act was only in the form of guidelines as it covers only government institutions, Mere said that the legislation was not very effective.
Mere said, ‘Since it has become an Act, it has become a law.’ He expressed optimism that anyone who discriminates HIV positive people would be penalized according to what has been prescribed in the Act.
Under the Act, he informed, every establishment that has more than hundred employees should have workplace guidelines on HIV and AIDS to protect and safeguard employees living with HIV.
Moreover, Mere said that even religious institutions that discriminate HIV positive people in denying wedding rituals, funeral rites etc., would be penalized under the provisions of the Act.
To implement the Act, Mere said, every state should at least appoint an ombudsman in the rank of health director, and placed in the department of law. The ombudsman, he said, shall undergo training on HIV/AIDS and the Act within thirty days of being appointed. The training shall include sensitization and thorough understanding on the basic science on HIV and AIDS, HIV-related prevention, and care and support and treatment; human sexuality; people vulnerable to HIV; stigma and discrimination, and strategies for risk-reduction.
According to the provisions of the Act, no HIV test, medical treatment, or research shall be conducted on persons without their informed consent and no person shall be compelled to disclose their HIV status to obtain employment or service, except with their informed consent, and if required by a court order.
The legislation has provisions to safeguard property rights of HIV positive people, he said. He added that every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household.
The Act also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.
The Act seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS; creates mechanisms to redress the complaints of persons infected with HIV and AIDS.
Violation of the Act by publishing information about people living with HIV or advocating hatred against them will attract imprisonment ranging from three months to two years or a maximum fine of Rs one lakh, or both.
According to the Act, Union and state governments shall take measures to prevent the spread of HIV or AIDS, provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management for persons with HIV or AIDS; and facilitate their access to welfare schemes, especially for women and children, among others.
The government will also issue guidelines with respect to protocols for HIV and AIDS related diagnostic facilities. Anti-retroviral therapy and opportunistic infection management will also be applicable to all persons.