The bill analysis various clause of the revised draft of HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014.
- More than two years after it was introduced in Rajya Sabha, a revised draft of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, which makes discriminating against a person living with HIV/AIDS a punishable offence, was cleared by the Union Cabinet.
Why was the Bill needed?
- The Bill seeks to give a legislative framework to existing norms of non-discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS — most crucially, making it a legally punishable offence to deny such a person health insurance on the ground of the infection that causes lowering of immunity.
- The Bill incorporates feedback from stakeholders, and also recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare to which it was referred.
- Apart from insurance, the protection from discrimination mandated in the Bill extends to the fields of employment, healthcare services, educational services, public facilities, property rights, holding public office etc.
- It also recognises the right of a person living with HIV/AIDS to keep his/her health status confidential. Institutions are obliged to keep all such information confidential and reveal them only with the informed consent of the PLHIV (person living with HIV).
So, how many people are living with HIV/AIDS in India currently?
- Approximately 21 lakh, as per government estimates. The adult prevalence is in the range of 0.3%, of which around 40% are women. Four high-prevalence states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu account for about 55% of the total cases in the country. The prevalence of HIV has been decreasing over the past decade.
How will the proposed law help in the treatment of AIDS?
- The Bill will bring a rights-based approach to AIDS treatment, making it imperative for both the central and state governments to provide treatment “as far as possible”.
- Though the Bill lays down that treatment is the right of the patient, it stops short of making it a legal right — and therefore, a patient who is denied ART treatment cannot ordinarily drag any government to court.
What happens to an insurer that denies insurance to a PLHIV?
- The Bill provides for the appointment of an ombudsman. The company would have to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 up front and a further Rs 5,000 per day until it agrees to give cover.
- The Standing Committee had said that “all HIV positive people should be provided insurance cover without any discrimination preferably at normal rate of premium or they may be charged slightly higher rate… but in no case exorbitant rate… should be charged… for providing insurance cover for both life and health insurance”.
What is the Bill’s “guardianship clause”?
- Recognising that HIV/AIDS often causes children to be orphaned, and extended families are reluctant to shoulder their responsibility, the Bill says that any person aged between 12 and 18 years with “sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS affected family” can act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age to be applicable in the matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment etc.
- The Bill requires that “No person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order”. Establishments keeping records of information of HIV positive persons shall adopt data protection measures. According to the Bill, the Central 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,
- Facilitate their access to welfare schemes especially for women and children,
- Formulate HIV or AIDS education communication programmes that are age appropriate, gender sensitive, and non-stigmatizing, and
- Lay guidelines for the care and treatment of children with HIV or AIDS. Every person in the care and custody of the state shall have right to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and counseling services. The Bill suggest that cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed’ off by the court on a priority basis and duly ensuring the confidentiality.
Even though the prevalence of HIV is decreasing over the last decade, the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill would provide essential support to National AIDS Control Programme in arresting new infections and thereby achieving the target of “Ending the epidemic by 2030” according to Sustainable Development Goals. Discuss.
- Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in India.
- Steps taken by the government and major provisions of this bill.
- What further steps are needed.
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