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Rajya Sabha passes HIV Bill; India will treat anyone who tests positive, says JP Nadda

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Source: The Indian Express

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014 that seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, and prohibits discrimination against affected persons.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on February 11, 2014 by the then Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda initiated the debate in the upper house. The Minister said that the AIDS Control Programme in India has been successful, and the HIV deaths declined by 54%, which is higher than the global rate.

Across partyline, majority of the MPs objected to the usage of phrase ‘as far as possible’ in the Section 14 (1) the bill.

Section 14 (1) of the HIV/AIDS Bill,  asks State governments to provide Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) and diagnostics services for Opportunistic Infections like tuberculosis for free, as far as possible.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh supported the bill and said that the money allocated for blood banks is not being used. However, he objected to the use of the phrase as far as possible in the bill.

Congress MP M V Rajeev Gowda also batted for decriminalising homosexuality . “One of the most vulnerable groups is men who have sex with men. But this is outlawed under article 377. We should look at repealing article 377, as the Supreme Court has passed the responsibility on to us. You are doing a lot of progressive things, so consider this too,” he said.

Vikas Mahatme of the BJP also supported the Bill and said that the contentious phrase needs to be taken out, without stripping the government of its feasibility to fund the treatment.

Trinamool Congress and AIADMK MPs alleged that the bill was watered down and claimed that clause 14(1) of the Bill allows the government to get away without providing medical facilities.

JP Nadda addressed the issue of clause 14(1). He said that the government has adopted the policy of tests and treatment. “India will treat anyone who tests positive. If treatment is denied, the reason has to be recorded.”

JP Nadda moved the bill which was passed with a clause by clause vote.

The bill is aimed to guarantee rights to India’s 2.4 million strong HIV community. According to HIV patients and people living with HIV group, the phrase ‘as far as possible’ will entirely open up to interpretation.

They had alleged that Bill without free and complete treatment will lead to the stock-outs of important HIV medicines and testing kits across the country putting the lives of HIV positive people at risk.

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