Rajya Sabha passes bill banning discrimination against people with HIV, AIDS | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Rajya Sabha passes bill banning discrimination against people with HIV, AIDS

Once it comes into effect, the legislation will prohibit the authorities of various institutions from forcing people to undergo HIV tests for employment or education.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2017 18:21 IST
Rhythma Kaul
School children take out a rally to spread awareness on HIV and AIDS at Ridge, Shimla, recently.
School children take out a rally to spread awareness on HIV and AIDS at Ridge, Shimla, recently. (Deepak Sansta / HT Photo)

The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill-2014, which criminalises discrimination against HIV-positive people and those living with them, was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The Union cabinet had approved official amendments to the bill, which lists the various grounds of discrimination in this regard, in May last year. Once it comes into effect, the legislation will prohibit the authorities of various institutions from forcing people to undergo HIV tests for employment or education.

The list also includes denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational institutions, healthcare services, sale or renting out of property, contesting for public or private office, and provision of insurance.

Apart from addressing HIV-related discrimination, the bill seeks to strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability and establishing formal mechanisms for probing complaints and redressing grievances.

“The aim is to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibit discrimination against the affected, provide for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, place obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and create mechanisms for redressing complaints,” said health minister JP Nadda.

Besides this, the bill also intends to enhance access to healthcare services by ensuring informed consent and confidentiality for HIV-related testing, treatment and clinical research, he added.

Once the legislation comes into effect, every HIV-infected or affected person below the age of 18 will have the right to live in a shared household, and enjoy household facilities.

Those publishing any information or advocating feelings of hatred against such people as well as those living with them will be punished under due provisions of the law.

The bill also takes guardianship of minors into consideration. A person between the age of 12 and 18 years, who has achieved sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS-affected family, will be deemed competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age. This is especially applicable in matters pertaining to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, and providing care and treatment, among others.

The legislation stipulates that “no person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required, by a court order”. It also mandates organisations that maintain records on HIV-positive individuals to adopt data-protection measures to safeguard their rights.

“This is a useful bill. It will support the implementation of India’s AIDS control programme, and help expand its reach,” said Dr BB Rewari, who was formerly with the National AIDS Control Organisation.

India has the third-largest HIV-affected population in the world, accounting for an estimated 21 lakh people. Even though the number has decreased over the last decade, the bill is expected to provide essential support to the National AIDS Control Programme in arresting new infections, which will help the government achieve its target of “ending the epidemic by 2030”.