The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday announced the implementation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017. The new law will be considered in effect from September 10 (Monday), days after Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalised homosexuality in India.
The Act, passed by the Parliament on April 11, 2017, provides for the prevention and control of the disease and protection of human rights of those affected by it. The Act also prohibits any kind of discrimination against such people on ground of treatment, employment and workplace.
“It will empower the people affected with the disease by giving them legal sanctity,” Health Minister JP Nadda had said in his reply to the debate in Lok Sabha. The Act is significant since India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world.
According to the UNAIDS Gap Report, there were close to 2.1 million people living with HIV in India till 2015. While there had been 68, 000 AIDS related deaths in 2015, 86,000 new people had acquired HIV infections. These statistics show how crucial the HIV Act becomes for those who suffer from this disease and bear the social stigma attached to it.
Key highlights of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017
Prohibition of discrimination against HIV positive persons: The Act sets various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons is prohibited. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, among others.
Informed consent and disclosure of HIV status: The Act requires that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research will be conducted on a person without his informed consent.
Role of the Union and State Governments: 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.
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.
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 shall be competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age.
Court proceedings: 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 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.