Law to protect rights of HIV/AIDS patients implemented

Law to protect rights of HIV/AIDS patients implemented

Students take part in a HIV/AIDS Awareness Rally on the occasion of World HIV/AIDS Day, in Bengaluru. (DH File Photo/B H Shivakumar)

A law that seeks to stop discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients has come into effect from September 10, with the hope of making lives easier of lakhs such patients all over the country.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act of 2017 comes into force on September 10, 2018, the Union Health Ministry stated in the gazette notification.

Any kind of discrimination against an HIV positive individual is prohibited under the new law. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to (i) employment, (ii) educational establishments, (iii) health care services, (iv) residing or renting property, (v) standing for public or private office and (vi) provision of insurance.

Asked whether HIV positive persons can go for medical insurance because of the law, a Union Health Ministry official told DH the decision has been left to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority to implement.

Insurance firms could be prosecuted if they refuse to give medical insurance cover to HIV/AIDS patients. The companies, however, could charge a higher premium for positive patients so that they don’t incur losses.

The requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited.

The ministry took more than a year to operationalise the law after both Houses of Parliament passed the legislation in April 2017.

Once the legislation was passed by both Houses of Parliament, the Health Ministry held nationwide consultation with the stakeholders for framing the rules and guidelines. The process was chaired by former Union Health Secretary J V R Prasada Rao, who submitted his report in July.

According to the law, 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.

Disclosure of HIV status has to be only on the basis of informed consent. No HIV test, medical treatment, or research can be conducted on a person without his informed consent. However, there are exceptions like screening by any licensed blood bank, a court order, medical research and epidemiological purposes where the HIV test is anonymous.

According to an analysis of the HIV/AIDS law, carried out by the non-governmental organisation PRS Legislative Research, court cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed of 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 be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant.

When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.