The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on September 11, 2018 issued a notification for bringing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 in force with effect from September 10, 2018.
The Bill was introduced by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2014, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 22, 2017, and on April 12, 2017, it was passed by the Lok Sabha. It received the assent of the President on April 20, 2017.
The HIV/AIDS Act, 2017 safeguards the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV.
Provisions of HIV/AIDS Act, 2017
• 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.
• The Act seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS.
• Informed consent and disclosure of HIV status: The Bill requires that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research will be conducted on a person without his informed consent.
• Every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household.
• The Act also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.
• Guardianship: 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 is competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age in the matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment.
• Role of the 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.
• It penalises "propagation of hatred" against HIV affected person where a violator could be punished with a minimum jail term of three months to a maximum of two years and can be fined up to Rs 1 lakh.
• It makes Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) a legal right for all HIV/AIDS patients.
• It adopted "test and treat" policy which means any person testing positive will be entitled for free treatment by the state and central government. Earlier, this was restricted by a CD4 count rate.
• Every person in the care and custody of the state shall have right to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and counseling services.
Grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons is prohibited
The 2017 Act lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them is prohibited. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation of unfair treatment with regard to:
(ii) Educational establishments
(iii) Health care services
(iv) Residing or renting property
(v) Standing for public or private office
(vi) Provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies)
The requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited.
Role of the Union and State Governments as per the Act
The Union and State Governments shall take measures to prevent the spread of HIV or AIDS, provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management for persons with HIV or AIDS, facilitate their access to welfare schemes especially for women and children, and others.
Court proceedings as per the Act
Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off 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 can be conducted
(a) by suppressing the identity of the person,
(b) in camera,
(c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant.
What Is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), if not treated. AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses.
Once contacted with HIV, the human body can’t get rid of the virus completely, even with treatment. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections.
Untreated HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. The virus progresses in the absence of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), a drug therapy that slows or prevents the virus from developing.
Over half trillion dollars spent on HIV/AIDS worldwide: Lancet report
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