SHILLONG; April 16: Less than half of the country’s people who are living with HIV are undergoing treatment for this dreaded disease as has been informed by the Meghalaya State Network of Positive People (MSNPP) on Sunday.
“There are 21 lakh estimated persons living with HIV in the country and only 12 lakh availing treatment leaving a large chunk outside the ambit of treatment,” MSNPP board member, Barry Kharmaki informed.
Meanwhile, the MSNPP has welcomed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 passed by the Lok Sabha but however pointed out that clause 14 of the bill is a legally vague clause which can act as an escape route for the government in providing universal comprehensive access to ARV treatment.
“The bill is good. We are waiting for the past three years for this bill which had been pending. It is very good it provides a legislative assembly framework to protect the right of the people living with HIV, when it comes to health, education, public facilities. It is good it made discrimination towards people living with HIV illegal,” Kharmalki said.
Informing that discrimination against vulnerable population like sex workers, drug users and homosexuality are considered to be key population in the contact of HIV epidemic, Kharmalki said, “The centres targeted intervention for HIV prevention are aimed at these communities. The original version of the bill drafted in consultation with civil society provided specific protection from discrimination for these communities as well. Often hospitals refuse to provide healthcare services to these key populations. However, the bill passed by the parliament has limited protection against discrimination to people living with HIV and those who reside with them”.
He further said that while the anti discrimination chapter is an important first step, for key populations who are central to the government prevention efforts, there is a huge gap in the bill.
Pointing out that Clause 14 of the bill dilutes the obligation on the government to provide access to ARVs with the phrase “as far as possible”, Kharmalki said, “This is a legally vague clause and can act as an escape route for the government in providing universal comprehensive access to ARV treatment”.
“In the past few years there have been repeated stock out of key ARVs. In addition the bill does not mentioned access to treatment for co-infections or to diagnostic kits which have also been major stock outs in recent years,” he added.
Expressing concern he said, “My area of concern is the weak treatment clause. India is the biggest and the largest producer of HIV generic medicines in the world which are affordable, but still the government is not willing to make any legal commitment. In fact they have put in the bill as far as possible. These four words has always been a bone of contention among the HIV activist”.
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday had passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 in efforts to strengthen public health legislature for the HIV community. The Bill had been passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 22 earlier this year.