SHILLONG: While the fight for ‘Right to Health’ of the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) at the government and civil society level, the PLHIV in Meghalaya, however, feels that the equal rights can only be achieved if the HIV AIDS Bill 2014 is amended even as they maintained that the bill lacks clarity and does not provide access to treatment as a ‘Right’.
While appreciating the step taken by the central government to approve the HIV AIDS Bill 2014 earlier on October 2016, the Meghalaya State Network of Positive People (MSNP+), as other PLHIV all over India, strongly feels and opines that changes need to be made in Section 14 (1), as it restricts the Right of HIV Positive persons to Antiretroviral treatment and opportunistic infection (OI) management by the qualification of as far as possible.
The HIV AIDS Bill 2014 stated in Chapter VI, Section 14 (1) on Anti Retroviral Therapy and Opportunistic Infection Management for people living with HIV – says that, “The measures to be taken by the Central Government or the State Government under section 13 shall include the measures for providing, as far as possible, Anti-retroviral Therapy and Opportunistic infection Management to people living with HIV or AIDS.”
“We find it unacceptable with the statement mentioning ‘as far as possible’. As other PLHIV all over the country, we too want treatment to be the right of a person not just an option and we also demand this section be changed or omitted from the chapter of treatment,” member of NACO and MSNP+ Barry Leslie Kharmalki told TNT News here on Thursday.
Furthermore, Kharmalki said that the Constitution of India does not explicitly guarantee the Right to Health. However, the Supreme Court has, in several judgments, held that the right to life and personal liberty that is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the Right to health.
“The Right to Health has been interpreted to be part of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 read with Article 14 obliges the state to provide health services, including testing, diagnostic facilities, as well as medicines to protect life without any discrimination,” he maintained.
It may be mentioned that the HIV Bill was submitted to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2006, from there on the bill has seen various impediments and now finally, after 10 years, the bill has been approved by the cabinet in October 2016. This 2014 bill have been drafted to safeguard the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV.
The Bill takes a progressive step in addressing stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV. “We are happy that this HIV bill will serve as a tool to protect our children from discrimination, starting right from school. It also recognizes the right to property, access to healthcare services and information which will further help those infected to lead a dignified life and aims to protect the rights of HIV positive people and their family members,” Kharmalki stated.
The Bill also states that nobody shall be tested and treated for HIV without their informed consent and the HIV status of a person cannot be disclosed to others without the person’s consent. “Once this bill becomes a law, an HIC positive person being discriminated in public or private sector can take legal recourse against such acts of discrimination,” added Kharmalki.
Calling upon the Meghalaya legislators and MPs to take up the issue in the Parliament, Kharmalki said “We want members of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to join the fight and rake up this issue in the parliament as they would be in a better position to help amend the HIV Bill.”