Remarks by Ambassador Rajiv K. Chander on India’s HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act at the Panel Discussion on Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2018​

Permanent Mission of India

Geneva

Remarks by Ambassador Rajiv K. Chander on India’s HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act at the Panel Discussion on Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2018

Thank you Ambassador Maria Azevêdo for chairing and moderating this session.

Mr Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Hon’ble Deus Gumba, Ms Laurel Sprague.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I thank you for making me a part of this important panel discussion to mark Zero Discrimination Day.

Less than a year ago in April 2017, the Indian Parliament passed HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act that proscribes discrimination of any kind against protected persons which covers HIV positive persons or persons who are living with a HIV positive or have lived with a person who is or was HIV positive. As you may know the HIV prevalence in India is estimated at 0.26% of the population in 2015 with total HIV prevalence at around 0.30% amongst male and 0.22% amongst females. This translates into some 2.1 million people with HIV and AIDS. There has been 46% reduction in new infections and 22% reduction in AIDS related cases since 2010.

The issue of stigma and discrimination faced by people with HIV and AIDS has been under discussion for over a decade with extensive consultations amongst the various stakeholders. The current Act in the draft stage was presented to Parliament in 2014 and after following due parliamentary procedures it became Law on 21st April 2017. It protects all persons who are HIV positive, affected by HIV and AIDS and also those vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. This Bill would support India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in arresting new infection and achieving the SDG Targets of ending the epidemic by 2030.

The Law defines discrimination as denial or discontinuation of employment, education, health services, renting of property, public or private office, insurance and public facilities. Denial of service or unequal treatment by the State Government or any person would amount to discrimination for which penalties have been prescribed.

The Law also prohibits HIV testing as a pre-requisite for employment, accessing health care or education. It also bans publishing information promoting feelings of hatred for HIV positive persons. In order to ensure confidentiality, the Law prohibits HIV testing or medical treatment without informed consent.

The Law provides safeguards for protecting the property rights of HIV positive persons and also recognizes their right to reside in a shared household.

Even the judiciary is required to be sensitive to the concerns of HIV positive persons. Such cases are to be disposed off on priority basis and proceedings can be conducted in camera in order not to reveal the identity of the protected person.

There are penal provisions for discrimination and breach of confidentiality.

Even medical institutions which hold records relating to persons with HIV and AIDS are required to keep the data confidential. The Law requires the Central Government to issue guidelines wherever appropriate so that there are standard provisions that are required to be followed by all concerned.

Penalties for contravention of provisions of the 2017 Act provide for imprisonment from 3 months to 2 years with a fine of up to Rs.100,000.

The Act provides that every provincial or the State Governments in India will appoint one or more Ombudsman with the mandate to inquire into complaints made by any person regarding compliance of the Act with regard to discrimination or provision of health services. The Ombudsman has to pass orders within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint.

The Act also provides that the Federal and the State governments in India shall take all such measures as deemed necessary and expedient for the prevention of the HIV or AIDS. Such measures include, as far as possible, diagnostic facilities relating to HIV or AIDS and Anti-retroviral Therapy and Opportunistic-Infection Management to all people living with HIV or AIDS.

The Bill also protects property of affected children.

It is well known that HIV is the strongest risk factor for tuberculosis among adults. Tuberculosis is the most prominent opportunistic diseases to develop amongst persons infected with HIV. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has given a clarion call to end Tuberculosis in India by 2025, a focus area of India’s health initiative. In this context, India in collaboration with WHO is hosting an International meeting on Tuberculosis on 13 March 2018. Director General WHO, Dr Tedros will be present at the event which will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India.

We have launched a new mission called - Mission SAMPARK i.e. Mission Connect. Mission Connect aims at “Community Based Testing” to take HIV testing closer to those in need. It will help in fast-tracking the identification of all who are HIV positive and subsequently linking to ART programme. Presently, about 1.2 Million People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) are taking free ART through 536 ART centres in India. It is big challenge to trace those who are Left to Follow Up and needed to be brought under ART services.

I thank you for providing this opportunity to share India’s experience in tackling discrimination faced by those with HIV and AIDS.

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2018
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