The long-awaited HIV Bill, a crucial public health legislation guaranteeing equal rights to India’s HIV community, was passed by the Rajya Sabha. Now, the bill is required to be passed by Lok Sabha.

Reaction by the HIV community
India’s HIV community, however, confessed itself ‘disappointed’ as the Bill places an obligation on State governments to provide treatment “as far as possible”, making it weak and open to interpretation. 

Incidence of HIV in India
India has the third-largest HIV-affected population in the world. There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India and the percentage of patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) treatment currently stands at a mere 25.82% as against the global percentage of 41%, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Diseases (GBD).

About The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill-2014
The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill-2014 criminalises discrimination against HIV-positive people.

1.    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.

2.    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.

3.    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.

4.    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.

5.    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.

6.    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. 

7.    According to the Bill, each state will appoint an ombudsman to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the act and the provision of health care services. Also, cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed of by the court on a priority basis.

What are the objectives of the bill?

1.    prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, 
2.    prohibit discrimination against the affected, 
3.    provide for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, 
4.    place obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and 
5.    Create mechanisms for redressing complaints.

The bill once becomes law will help the government achieve its target of “ending the epidemic by 2030”.