Activists, patients protest delay in tabling AIDS bill

November 22nd, 2011 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 22 (IANS) Around 200 people, including homosexuals, eunuchs and families of those living with HIV/AIDS, protested outside the health ministry here Tuesday to press for early passage of the HIV/AIDS bill that seeks to protect their rights.

Holding banners and placards, the crowd gathered outside Nirman Bhavan in central Delhi and raised slogans demanding the passing of the bill and criticised the ministry for dragging its feet on the issue.

The crowd was led by Raman Chawla of the NGO Lawyers Collective, which alongwith other groups, was involved in drafting the bill. After about an hour of protest, Chawla met Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

“He (Azad) told us that he had forwarded the draft to the law ministry, but refused to show us the copy. Then we went to the office of NACO (National Aids Control Organisation) to get a copy of the draft, but they refused too,” Chawla told IANS.

“We will decide the future course of action in a few days,” he added.

However, the enthusiastic crowd was not deterred by the ministry’s attitude.

“This fight will go on. We’ll be back here soon in huge numbers. Our voices will have to be heard. We want to live too,” said 42-year-old eunuch Begum Shaheen, who was diagnosed with HIV last year and came from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh to participate in the protest.

Another protester was 46-year-old Nigerian Aleem, who works with NGO Sahara in south Delhi.

“These people need to feel empowered and wanted. It’s our duty to support them in their struggle against a life threatening disease like HIV/AIDS,” Aleem, holding a banner that read ‘Don’t kill, pass the bill’, told IANS.

After being finalised by the health ministry in August 2006, the bill was submitted to the law ministry in September next year.

The bill was drafted after nationwide consultations with different stakeholders, including people living with HIV, communities at risk of HIV, healthcare workers, children’s organisations and women’s groups.

The bill provides redressal against discrimination in the private sector.

It also ensures the informed consent of the person should be taken before testing for HIV treatment or research.

Although the government provides first line treatment free of cost, availability of second line is limited.

The bill makes it the responsibility of the government to provide complete treatment free of cost.

It also provides for the appointment of a health ombudsman in every district.

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