Delhi drafts rules for appointment of officer to keep a check on discrimination against people with HIV

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Published on Sep 30, 2019 11:17 PM IST
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New Delhi

The Delhi government has prepared draft rules for the appointment of an Ombudsman to whom people living with HIV or AIDS will be able to complain about discrimination faced by them at work, in hospitals, for housing among other places.

Once the rules come into force, the official, appointed under the central Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017, will be empowered to pass orders.

In India, about 2.14 million people live with HIV, with a prevalence of 0.22%, according to the National AIDS Control Organisation. The prevalence in Delhi is higher than the national average with 0.30%.

The draft will be presented to the cabinet soon, health department officials said.

The Ombudsman or the designated officer will address complaints of discrimination under the 2017 act and facilitate treatment and legal proceedings as per need.

“The role of the Ombudsman is that of a facilitator. If a person with HIV is not receiving treatment they can approach the officer, if they are being discriminated against at work they can approach the officer. The officer has the power to conduct inquiry into the matter and ensure proper actions are taken,” said the Delhi government official.

The state will be able to appoint one or more Ombudsman as needed, according to the draft Delhi State HIV and AIDS (Ombudsman and Legal Proceedings) Rules, 2018.

The rules say the complaint to the Ombudsman has to be filed within three months of the person becoming aware of the violation, unless the officer allows for an extension of another three months.

The officer selected will be given the designation of director health services, and will hold the post for three years. The person will have to be either a retired sessions or district judge or qualified medical practitioner with 20 years of working knowledge about public healthcare, including 10 years in HIV-AIDS. A senior management-level person from an NGO working on HIV-AIDS with a Post Graduate Degree in Social Sciences may also be selected.

The draft bill says serving or retired members of state health service, central health service or state or all India civil service are also eligible given that they have 20 years of work experience, with five years in HIV-AIDS.

The person will have the powers to pass orders to rectify any violations of the act, and interim orders without a hearing in case of a medical emergency.

The rules say how complaints have to be registered, how the Ombudsman has to keep records of the complaints, and how the officer will have to maintain anonymity in case of legal proceedings.

“The draft rules are likely to be notified within a couple of months; it will go to the cabinet and then to the assembly. It might be sent to the LG. This is the first set of rules under the HIV act of 2017 and more might be created in the future depending on the need,” said the officer.

People living with HIV will benefit. “Currently, a person can go to court with complaints of discrimination, however, having a quasi-judicial body like that of the Ombudsman will ensure people living with HIV get immediate relief in case of emergency and in life-threatening conditions. Even for other cases of discrimination, the Ombudsman can pass orders and the procedure would be much less time consuming as compared to courts,” said Firoz Khan, programme officer with the India HIV/AIDS Alliance and a positive person himself.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021