Cabinet okays bill to strengthen rights of HIV, Aids patients

The cabinet on Wednesday approved important amendments to the HIV and AIDS Bill, 2014 in a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The bill provides legal accountability and a formal mechanism to probe complaints of discrimination against patients and also makes anti-retroviral treatment a legal right of patients.

The amendments list various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive patients and those living with them is prohibited. These include denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance.

The cabinet also approved a provision outlawing HIV testing as a requirement for obtaining employment or accessing health care.

"No person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by court order," a statement issued after the cabinet meeting read.

According to the amended bill every HIV patient, below the age of 18 years, will have the legal right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household.

The bill also allows HIV positive minors, older than 12 years of age, to act as guardians and manage the affairs of their family. This provision will apply to all legal matters relating to admission to schools and colleges, operating bank accounts and providing care and treatment of other HIV positive family members.

Establishments keeping records of information of HIV positive persons shall adopt data protection measures. The bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information which could compromise the rights of HIV positive persons.