Table HIV-AIDS bill in this session only, demand victims, experts (Dec 1 is World AIDS Day)

New Delhi, Nov 30 ( Three years after a bill to protect the rights of people living with HIV-AIDS was drafted and cleared by the health ministry, it is yet to be introduced in parliament. A group of experts and victims Monday demanded that the bill be presented in the current winter session.

“It is extremely disheartening to see the HIV/AIDS bill shuttling between the health ministry and the law ministry for the last three years. We need this bill to fight discrimination,” said Daisy David, a member of the Indian Network of the Positive People on the eve of the World AIDS Day, observed Tuesday.

Pradeep Dutta, who runs a voluntary organisation for his fellow victims of the disease, said: “We face major problems in hospitals everyday. From a general health problem to hospital stay, doctors don’t take care of us. We need this bill, which criminalises stigma, to be passed.”

The bill, prepared with help from several voluntary organisations like the Lawyers’ Collective, was drafted first in 2006. “We came to know that the bill has been drafted for the fourth time and currently it is with the solicitor general. We demand the bill be introduced in parliament in the current session,” said Raman Chawla, a member of the Lawyers Collective.

Joe Thomas of AIDS-India, another NGO, said: “In the light of the routine rights violations faced by people living with the virus, the tabling and passing of this bill is extremely important. The government should not delay it further.”

The bill has several provisions to reduce stigma to HIV positive and AIDS patients and provide better access to treatment. There is also provision for appointment of a health ombudsman in every district of the country. There are special provisions for women and children which include measures for safety from sexual assault on these vulnerable groups.