09 April 2012
New Delhi India
By: Subodh Ghildiyal
Among the provisions drafted in are a person can be jailed for up to two years if his/her spoken or written word leads to hostility or hatred towards an HIV patient and an AIDS-hit person cannot be denied employment or sacked except with a written assessment from an independent healthcare provider saying that there is a risk of transmission of the virus to others at the workplace. Soon, jail for targeting HIV patients
The proposed law, which is in the final stages of approval, states that testing for AIDS cannot be a pre-requisite for employment or access to healthcare, education or public places. It means that any HIV-afflicted person refused entry to public places like hotels or denied the right to buy or rent a house can move an ombudsman or even courts against the discrimination.
According to the bill, which was caught amid differences between the health and law ministries, any person below 18 years of age and a woman of any age will have the right to live in a shared property as a safeguard against eviction due to the stigma attached with the disease. Also, in a move that will aid women fighting divorce battles, medical costs will be factored in during any maintenance settlements.
The law will put in place a national authority in the form of a department of AIDS control which will formulate guidelines for protocols like treatment of HIV patients through Anti–Retroviral Therapy or rules for blood banks or diagnostic centres. Having an ombudsman in every state to adjudicate violations under the law will help the aggrieved avoid time–consuming legal proceedings in civil courts. To deter victimization of HIVpositive people, a key clause prescribes a jail term of three months to two years for any spoken or written word or display of information or advertisement which could expose HIV–positive persons to any form of hostility. The jail term may be accompanied by a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
The bill, the first–ever codification of rights and duties to protect the HIV–hit, asserts that no person can be forced to take an HIV test. For such a test, the authority will have to secure consent after due counselling on all pros and cons. Similarly, no HIV–positive person can be subjected to medical treatment without his consent—a decision which should be made after he has been informed about the risks and benefits of the treatment. A judicial order will be the only exception to force an AIDS test on a person apart from “screening purpose” in a blood bank.
The HIV–hit will finally enjoy guaranteed confidentiality: No person can be compelled to disclose his HIV status (except under a court directive). In a strict deterrent, the bill states that if a person reveals the identity of an HIV patient as part of information passed on in a legal case, he could face a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. To balance the threat of transmission with the stringent non–disclosure clause, a doctor can disclose his patient's HIV–positive status to his partner if he believes there is a risk of infection. However, he would have to guard against such disclosure about a woman if there is apprehension that it can lead to her being abandoned or facing violence. The ombudsman can impose an initial fine of Rs 10,000, and thereafter Rs 5,000 a day for non-compliance of orders.
To ensure that non–discrimination clause is followed at workplace, every institution with over 100 employees will have to appoint a senior officer to deal with violations of the law.