India - A Long Wait for the HIV Bill

People living with HIV, activists, and civil society called for the government to pass the HIV bill in the next session of the Parliament, which begins on February 5th, 2014. 

Representatives of the Chennai Network of Positive People and World Vision India urged the Parliament to spare time for over 2.5 million people living with HIV. 

The bill, which has been pending with the government since 2006, seeks to protect the rights of people living with HIV and end discrimination. 

N. Surekha of Lawyers' Collective said the bill would go a long way in improving the quality of life for HIV infected people.  "Until now only discrimination at the government sector has been addressed. But if the bill is passed, even the private sector will come under its ambit. It would also ensure that HIV patients would get free treatment as only the first phase of treatment is free now and they have to pay for second and third phases," she said.

The bill was listed to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha during the last session of the Parliament in December, 2013 but Parliament adjourned without resolution two days before the scheduled close, leaving the bill pending.

“When research shows that people with HIV live longer if they have better access to treatment, why is the bill, which ensures free and full treatment for all, still pending?” asked Daisy David, Advocacy Officer, World Vision India. 

“Many do not reveal that they are HIV positive out of fear of losing their jobs,” said Bhagyalakshmi, one of the members of the Network, said she lost her job after she disclosed that she was HIV positive.

The HIV bill also has provisions for free and full treatment for people living with HIV.

“Those who had been taking first line treatment, which had been offered since 2004 in the State, will now want to get second line treatment. This Bill will help them get it,” explained Paari of the Chennai Network of Positive People.

Over the past month, World Vision India’s programmes across the country have organised events, rallies and press conferences calling for the HIV bill to be passed.