India is still humming and hawing over the legislation aimed at preventing discrimination of the HIV infected at the workplace and in education.
Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said that the HIV/AIDS bill was being delayed as the Government was still holding talks with the NGOs on the issue that could guarantee safe-working environment and social security to the millions of infected.
The bill also provides for access to treatment and lays down the obligations of the State. Under grievance redressal, the bill would help in the appointment of health ombudsman, bring in institutional obligations, usher in special proecedures in courts, and prescribes penalties for those who violate the new provisions.
Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit has drafted the bill in consultation with the Centre, people living with HIV, healthcare providers and NGOs. It mainly addresses the issue of discrimination in employment, healthcare, education and other places, besides informed consent for testing, treatment and research.
After national consultations throughout the nation, the bill was submitted to National Aids Control Organization (NACO) in August 2005. Nearly two years have passed. The Centre had announced that the bill would be taken up in the budget session. Now, the Health Minister is talking about further consultations.
The bill also proposes protection of inheritance and property rights and recognises community-based alternatives to institutionalisation for vulnerable and affected children. ``Africa failed to address the problem of HIV infected children and now everyone there is paying for it. We can't take that risk,'' says Kezevino Aram, president, Shanti Ashram, a Coimbatore based NGO, underlining the need to have a legislation in place as soon as possible.
The best public health strategy to control the spread of HIV would be the creation of a non-dsicriminatory environment based on human rights. Even if stigma, violence and inequity could not be eradicated, efforts should be made at least to reduce the stigma, said an official of the AIDS Prevention andControl Project (APAC), Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.