The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017, passed by the Parliament, is truly historic in a country where there is still widespread social stigma and misconceptions surrounding the disease. The bill was introduced to help strengthen the rights of the people who have been suffering from HIV or AIDS.
Following the passage of the bill, Union Health Minister JP Nadda tweeted: "The #HIVAIDSBill puts obligations of the establishments to provide safe working environment for the #HIV affected people". The bill also aims to protect the rights and check discrimination after the Lok Sabha gave its approval for the same.
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He said,"Under goal 4 of the Millenium Development Goals, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis had to be arrested and reversed". You can not be compelled to disclose your HIV status except with your informed consent (or in cases where required, by a court order).
Nadda said the government has spent Rs 2000 crore on Anti Retroviral Therapy drugs for such patients a year ago, while 22,000 testing facilities for HIV and AIDS are functional in the country.
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Asserting that India runs second largest Antiretroviral Theraphy (ART) programme in the world, the minister also said the government spent Rs 2000 crore on ART alone for such patients previous year, while adding that there were 22,000 HIV testing centres in the country, which conducted 2.9 crore HIV tests, including 1.3 crore pregnant women. He said the bill would ensure an "aggressive strategy" with accountability at the Central and state levels with provisions for mandatory testing and counseling for HIV patients by the government.
There are also provisions where a person with HIV is not required to undergo an HIV test, medical treatment or research without their consent. He said that ombudsman in States would decide upon complaints and take action within 30 days.He said that exhaustive consultations with all stakeholders, including HIV and AIDS patients and 29 inter-ministerial discussions, have already been held. "Facilities, secured environment and logistics would be provided", he said.
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PK Biju (CPI-M) mentioned certain instances in Kerala where the children of HIV-affected parents faced resistance from studying with others in schools. This ensures that those affected by HIV have the right to privacy and confidentiality.