Safeguarding the rights of people living with and affected by HIV, the Union Health Ministry has issued a notification to bring in force from Monday the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017.
The Act safeguards the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV. The provisions of the Act address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability, and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
Provisions related to the role of governments: As per the Act, central and state governments are obliged to provide for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and management of opportunistic infections (infections that take advantage of a weakness in the immune system and occur frequently). It also prohibits specific acts of discrimination by the state, or any other person, against HIV-positive people, or those living with such people.
Provisions related to discrimination: It lays down penal provisions for any discrimination practiced against a person with HIV/AIDS and breach of confidentiality. The protection mandated extends to the fields of employment, health care services, educational services, public facilities, property rights, holding public office, and insurance. It also provides for confidentiality of HIV-related information and makes it necessary to get informed consent for undertaking HIV tests, medical treatment and research.
Provisions related to ombudsman: It also provides for an ombudsman. An ombudsman shall be appointed by each state government to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. The ombudsman shall submit a report to the state government every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken.
Provisions related to guardianship: Provisions related to guardianship are also specified. A person between the age of 12 to 18 years who has sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS-affected family shall be competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age. The guardianship will apply in matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care, and treatment, amongst others.
Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed of by the court on a priority basis. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant. When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.
There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India and the percentage of patients receiving antiretroviral 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).