Thousands of people with HIV infection have lost jobs, been thrown out of homes and been refused treatment, waiting for government bureaucracy to clear the final draft of the HIV/AIDS Bill in Parliament.
"The Bill has been pending with the Centre for almost two years. We want the Bill to be tabled in the budget session of Parliament as promised by the Government.
People living with HIV are being thrown out of jobs and denied treatment even in government medical colleges and these discriminatory issues cannot be addressed unless we have constitutional backing,' says Naresh Yadav, vice-president of the Indian Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (INP+).
The Bill has provisions to protect HIV-positive women and children, who are more vulnerable to discrimination. According to the Bill, there should be no mandatory pre-marital testing but compulsory registration of marriage becomes a must to give women the right to live in their marital home. In the case of AIDS orphans, older siblings should be recognized as a guardian to keep the family intact.
Although India has a National AIDS Prevention and Control Policy, it does not have the status of law and so is not binding and enforceable in court. "If a private hospital refuses treating a person infected with HIV, they cannot seek legal recourse. The HIV/AIDS Bill aims to empower people to protect themselves and others from HIV/AIDS," says Denis Broun, country coordinator, UNAIDS.
Drafted by the Lawyers Collective to prevent and control HIV while protecting the rights of those infected with HIV, the final draft of the bill was submitted to the Union Ministry of Health in August 2006.