No doctor to deny treatment to HIV+ person: government

October 1st, 2008 - 8:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) The government Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it has issued statutory orders to ensure that no hospital, doctor or paramedical staff would deny the requisite treatment to an HIV positive person.Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told the bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan that the government’s order is applicable to all the hospitals and doctors whether they are in the public sector or private.

He also told the bench, which included Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice P. Sathasivam, that the government has put in place strict punitive measures for doctors and hospitals denying medical care to HIV positive people or treating them without dignity.

The government’s law officer made the submission during hearing on a public interest lawsuit by an NGO, Sahara House, demanding prompt medical care of HIV positive people and the enhancement of medical infrastructure for the purpose.

Quoting from a 14-point official memorandum issued by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), under the health and family welfare ministry, on Aug 26, the law officer said: “All doctors, nurses and hospital staff, whether in public sector or the private sector, shall treat HIV positive persons in a professional and humane manner, treating them always with dignity and care.

“No doctor or nurse shall refuse to treat any HIV positive person on account of his positive status and treat them without any discrimination or stigma whatsoever,” he said.

“The case of denial of services to the positive patients should be viewed very seriously and action initiated in all such cases,” he added.

Subramanain also told the bench that the NACO order has specifically warned the doctors in the private sector and private practitioners against their tendency to administer ineffective, costly and irrational treatment ignoring the NACO guidelines to administer only particular anti-retroviral treatment, which besides being safe and cost-effective, has also shown good results.

The law officer said that the NACO directives has specifically asked the central and state governments to ensure that all government hospitals provide medicine and treatment to HIV positive people free of cost and do not deny the same on the grounds unavailability of drugs or equipment.

The Supreme Court had on Sep 18 sought the central government’s explanation on a plea by a poor AIDS patient from Bihar facing imminent death as the requisite drugs were not available free of cost in the state government hospitals.

After Subramaniam apprised the apex court of NACO’s various statutory provisions to help HIV positive people, the apex court issued notices to various state governments seeking within four months a detailed status report on the steps taken to implement the NACO provisions.

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