HIV positive people and other civil society organizations including groups of people Most at risk of HIV from Karnataka today demanded for amendments in the HIV/AIDS Bill. The Bill was cleared by the union cabinet on 5th October 2016.
HIV/AIDS Bill was first tabled in Rajya Sabha in February 2014. Since then, there have been demands for the amendments in the chapter of treatment. “We have been demanding for free and complete treatment in the Bill. The Bill only states that government is to provide treatment ‘as far as possible.’ This is not acceptable for us.” said Mrs.Chandrika from Milana.
HIV groups from across the country have been raising this issue with the government for the last two years. In 2015, written submissions from different parts of the country were sent to Standing Committee on Health demanding for the deletion of the term ‘as far as possible’ from the chapter of treatment. Letters were also sent to the Group of Ministers this year making the same demand. “From the media reports coming in, it seems that government has not accepted our demands. This is very disappointing” said Rekha Shetty from Bangalore HIV/AIDS Forum.
The Bill protects HIV positive people and their family members from stigma and discrimination. However, another cause of concern in the Bill is that groups Most at Risk of HIV (MARPS) which includes sex workers, Men Having Sex with Men (MSM), Transgender Persons and Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) have been left out from the ambit of discrimination. Reacting to this, Nisha Gulur from Sangama said, “Sexual Minorities like MSM and Transgender people and also sex workers are at high risk of India. Along with IDUs, these are the groups where epidemic is concentrated in our country. Not including them defeats the purpose of the Bill i.e. to prevent and control the spread of HIV.”
There are growing demands that the Bill should be amended before it is passed by the Parliament. Expressing the demand, Mrs. Saroja from Karnataka Network of positive people said “We request the political parties across the party lines to come forward and ensure that the necessary amendments are made in the Bill before it is passed by the Parliament.”
The Bill is expected to come up for passage in Rajya Sabha in the upcoming winter session. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org