The state government is planning to adopt a workplace policy on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) affected employees to curb discrimination.
The new policy is likely to be announced on December 1 on World AIDS Day at a function in Nashik. Said state health secretary Vijay Satbir Singh: "The policy will concentrate on non-discrimination of HIV infected employees in the matters of recruitment, transfers and promotions. As of now, we are introducing the policy for all government departments. In the next few months, we will also ask the private sector to adopt the policy."
"Maharashtra would be the first state in the country to introduce such a policy. Many countries including the United States and Canada have a workplace policy on HIV. As per the proposed policy, the authorities who know about the HIV positive status of an employee would be required to keep it confidential so that such people do not suffer," said Singh.
It is to be noted that government departments especially the police have a large number of HIV infected personnel. Last year, the Mumbai police admitted that hundreds of their employees had tested HIV positive during an annual health check up. More than 450 officers and constables of the 40,000-strong force were declared HIV-infected.
Also, a state level council headed by the chief minister with members including ministers of the concerned department, social activists and NGOs will be formed. "This council would hold meetings and take high level policy decisions regarding HIV prevention, treatment and rehabilitation", added Singh.
Also around 300 integrated counseling and testing centers would be added at government hospitals and dispensaries across the state. "We are also coming up with a definite plan for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of cases where a child is infected through the mother. We could set up community care centres for such children," he said.
According to Prakash Sabde, project director of Maharashtra State Aids Control Society, there are around 6.5 lakh estimated HIV positive people across the state out of which around 2500 are children infected since birth. "Though there is not much variation this year, there are areas with high prevalence rates like Sangli and Chandrapur," he said.
Meanwhile, efforts to make HIV tests mandatory before marriage have gone for a toss as the government said it was not considering any such proposal.
"We cannot make such tests mandatory. It is totally on a voluntary basis and if a couple feels that they need to know about each other's HIV status, they can have a test done. We will not enforce this on anyone," Singh said in response to a recent Bombay High court directive that the state should consider about the proposal. The High Court was reacting on Thursday on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Maharashtra Law Graduates Association (MLGA) seeking a mandatory HIV testing law for couples before marriage. Disposing off the PIL, the court asked MLGA to approach the state government with their demands.