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Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi: The Union cabinet approved on Wednesday amendments to a 2014 bill that
expanded protections for HIV-positive people and those living with them, prohibited discrimination in jobs and education and improved healthcare access and privacy statutes.
The proposed changes to the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014 bar employees or schools from forcibly making someone undergo an HIV test and outlaw unfair treatment in housing and insurance.
Any denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment of HIV-positive people in jobs, education, healthcare or standing for public or private office is also banned.
Apart from addressing HIV-related discrimination, the bill seeks to strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
“The aim is to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibit discrimination against the affected, provide for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment and place obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and create mechanisms for redressing complaints,” said health minister JP Nadda.
“The bill also aims to enhance access to health care services by ensuring informed consent and confidentiality for HIV-related testing, treatment and clinical research.”
India has the third-highest population of HIV-positive people with more than two million affected by the virus but a government-controlled health programme has been successful in cutting the number of new infections by half over the past two decades.
But despite the runaway success of the healthcare schemes and availability of anti-retroviral therapy in government hospitals, social discrimination against HIV-positive people is pervasive. Many patients are often denied jobs, thrown out of schools and refused housing. The proposed amendments aim to check this bias.Privacy concerns of HIV-positive persons have also been addressed. No one can publish information or advocate feelings of hatred against HIV-positive persons and those living with them, and those who do will be punished.