Draft legislation on prevention of discrimination against HIV/AIDS victims will be tabled by the Union Health Ministry before the Cabinet for approval.
In the light of the XVI International AIDS Conference, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said, "it took a little time, because we wanted some amendments to the draft and elaborate discussions with the stakeholders. Hopefully, the Bill will be tabled in Parliament in the winter session."
When questioned about the steps taken to check the spread of HIV infection in India, he said his Ministry was in touch with the Home Ministry on the issue of "needle exchange program" by which free disposable needles are supplied to drug-users. The northeastern States have also supported the idea.
In addition a task force, under the chairmanship of a Special Secretary from the Home Ministry, would look into the issue.
He said, "We have to take a policy decision on the matter and it is now being deliberated upon."
Dr. Ramadoss admitted that HIV/AIDS was a serious issue in the paramilitary forces, especially in Border Security Force and Assam Rifles, and intervention measures were being discussed with the Home Ministry for this.
The Health Ministry has proposed the amendment of Section 377 of the IPC to the Home Ministry to legalise men having sex with men in order to enable the Government to make preventive interventions within this group to prevent the spread of the infection.
The Government is estimated to invest about $2.5 billion in the National AIDS Control Program (NACP-III) in 2007 for the next five years. The funds would come from international donors and private sector. Dr. Ramadoss said that the Government has decided to upscale the sentinel sites in North India because of the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
The list of highly vulnerable states includes Goa, Orissa and Gujarat. He also said that two research works on microbicieds were on in India in collaboration with U.K.-based companies for the development of anti-AIDS drugs. Trial was also going on for two anti-AIDS vaccines.