HIV Positive People Demand Immediate Passing of the HIV/AIDS Bill
New Delhi, 4 July 2011: Around 300 people living with HIV/AIDS a staged a dharna outside the Health Ministry today, demanding the immediate tabling of the HIV/AIDS in Parliament. The Bill has been pending with the government since July 2006. In response to the protesters, the Health Ministry asked for a delegation of five persons to meet officials from the Ministry. However, the delegation returned unsatisfied as the Health Minister was not in the Ministry.
The protesters then marched to Vigyan Bhawan where the Health Minister along with the Prime Minister and the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, are participating in the All India Elected Representatives Convention on HIV/AIDS. The protesters demanded that they be allowed to meet the Health Minister. Pradeep Dutta of the Nai Umang Network said, “It has been over a year that we have been asking for an appointment with the Health Minister, however he has refused to meet us. How can he address a meeting on HIV without talking to us? ”
People infected and affected by HIV face widespread discrimination in different spheres of life. HIV positive people are removed from jobs because of their status and refused medical treatment, even in emergency situations. Children whose parents are HIV positive are often refused education, even if they are themselves not infected with the virus. The proposed Bill aims to protect people infected and affected by HIV from discrimination both in the public and private sectors. However, five years on from when the Bill was first finalised, it is still to be introduced in Parliament. “Urgent steps need to be taken to protect the rights of the HIV Positive people, passing of the much delayed HIV/AIDS Bill is an essential step in that direction” says Hari Shankar of the Delhi Network of Positive People.
In August 2007, the Bill was sent to the Law Ministry. However, it was only in March 2010 that the Law Ministry cleared the Bill. Since then, the Bill is pending with the Health Ministry. According to Ram Lakhan of Jagriti Network “Itseems that the government is sleeping on the Bill. It has been half a decade since the Bill was finalized by the Health Ministry. However, till date, the Bill has not been tabled in the Parliament. We demand that the Bill be tabled in Parliament in the upcoming session of parliament”
Under the present HIV programme, though government is providing first line and second line antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to people infected with HIV, treatment for oppurtunistic infections and important diagnostic tests like viral load tests are not available at the government centers. “The Bill is very important as it puts an obligation on the state to provide complete treatment including ARVs, diagnostics and nutritional supplements to all HIV positive people. However, it seems that this legislation is no more a priority for the government and they are not bothered about the problems faced by the People Living with HIV in this country” said Sahil from Om Prakash Network of Positive People.
Jyoti of the Delhi Positive Women’s Network and Mundrika of Delhi Mahila Samiti said “Womenare specifically vulnerable to HIV due to their socio-economic status. The Bill aims to tackle this vulnerability by providing special provisions like protocols for sexual assault and right to residence. The Bill needs to be passed in the Parliament without any further delay”
For the last five years, groups working in the field of HIV including the HIV positive people have been demanding the early passing of the Bill.
The protesters continued to stand outside Vigyan Bhawan till the evening demanding a meeting with the Health Minister.
Click here for more information on the HIV/AIDS Bill.
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