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HIV Bill passed; concerns over access to treatment remain

The Bill, which was first introduced in Parliament by Ghulam Nabi Azad during the UPA rule, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March. Now it will go for the presidential assent.

While the Bill has attempted a rights-based approach to treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS, the community is concerned that the Bill only promises to provide treatment “as far as possible.” These four words in the Bill have remained a bone of contention among activists and patients living with HIV. The community has been seeking removal of these words from the Bill.

According to official estimates of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 21 lakh people are living with HIV/AIDs in the country. It is estimated that only just over 11 lakh people are on antiretroviral treatment (ART), leaving a significant population outside the ambit of treatment.

Paul Lhungdim of the Delhi Network of Positive People said that by not amending the language of the Bill, access to treatment could be hampered as the Bill has fallen short of making access to ART a right.

“If they can’t continue treatment, patients could develop resistance to drugs. That would eventually cost the government even more money. We must also remember that India is the largest producer of low-cost generic drugs. We have to make sure that medicines are available at low cost,” Lhungdim said. He added that it is imperative that more patients were brought under treatment for HIV/AIDS.

The Bill, however, has been lauded for its effort to criminalise discrimination against patients.


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Posted on : Apr 12, 2017