HIV AIDS legislation, Bilateral and multilateral alignments – India,Current Affairs 19th April, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
HIV AIDS legislation
HIV AIDS is a serious concern in the health fabric of the country. The stigma associated makes it difficult for the affected to lead a normal life. The legislation is timely and necessary to enable the treatment necessities and fighting the associated concerns.
In efforts to strengthen public health legislature for the HIV community, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017. The bill is significant since India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world.
- The Bill seeks to prevent the spread and control of HIV in the country. 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 Bill becomes for those who suffer from this disease and bear the social stigma attached to it.
- The Bill also seeks to criminalise discrimination against HIV community.
Concerns about the legislation:
The HIV-positive population of the country, estimated at over 21 lakh, is disappointed that the Centre’s commitment to take all measures necessary to prevent the spread of HIV or AIDS is not reflected in the Bill, in the form of the right to treatment.
- The law only enjoins the States to provide access “as far as possible”.
- Beyond this flaw, though, the legislation empowers those who have contracted the infection in a variety of ways: such as
- Protecting against discrimination in employment, education, health-care services, getting insurance and renting property.
Commitment of the state:
- It is now for the States to show strong political commitment, and appoint one or more ombudsmen to go into complaints of violations and submit reports as mandated by the law.
- Here again, State rules should prescribe a reasonable time limit for inquiries intocomplaints, something highlighted by the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare that scrutinized the legislation.
- Access to insurance for persons with HIV is an important part of the Bill, and is best handled by the government.
- The numbers are not extraordinarily large and new cases are on the decline, according to the Health Ministry.
- Viewed against the national commitment to Goal 3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals — to “end the epidemic of AIDS” (among others) by 2030 — a rapid scaling up of interventions to prevent new cases and to offer free universal treatment is critical.
- Publicly funded insurance can easily bring this subset of care-seekers into the overall risk pool.
- Such a measure is also necessary to make the forward-looking provisions in the new law meaningful, and to provide opportunities for education, skill-building and employment.
- As a public health concern, HIV/AIDS has a history of active community involvement in policymaking, and a highly visible leadership in the West.
- It would be appropriate for the Centre to initiate active public consultations to draw up the many guidelines to govern the operation of the law.
- Evidently, the requirement for the ombudsman to make public the periodic reports on compliance will exert pressure on States to meet their obligations.
- In an encouraging sign, the Supreme Court has ruled against patent extensions on frivolous grounds, putting the generic drugs industry, so crucial for HIV treatment, on a firm footing.
HIV being a global concern but with high incidence in India we have to take timely actions to eliminate the same. India has to build on the success of NACO phased programme and adopt global best practices. The issue needs to be dealt with from all parameters including social, economical, psychological etc.