Indian Government Plans To Introduce HIV/AIDS Antidiscrimination Bill, Health Minister Says
Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Monday at the First National Conference of AIDS Society of India in New Delhi said that the government plans to introduce legislation aimed at ending discrimination against HIV-positive people in the country, Reuters reports. "We have finalized draft legislation to end discrimination against AIDS patients," Ramadoss said at the conference, adding, "It has gone to the law ministry and will be presented to parliament." HIV-positive people currently face "severe discrimination" in India, and HIV/AIDS advocates say many hotel, factory and textile company employees have lost their jobs because of their HIV-positive status, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/4). Ramadoss said the bill would target discrimination against women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, according to a Ministry of Health & Family Welfare release. "People living with HIV/AIDS face stigma and discrimination and, therefore, care and support to such patients is indeed to be mainstreamed through general health services," the release states (Health ministry release, 4/4). About 5.1 million HIV-positive people live in India -- the second-largest HIV/AIDS population in the world -- and the number could increase to 20 million by 2015, according to some HIV/AIDS experts. The Indian government currently spends about $146 million, or about 29 cents per person, annually to fight HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/4).
The government spends about 85% of HIV/AIDS funding on prevention efforts and 15% on care and treatment, but it plans to enhance treatment facilities in 100 hospitals across the country, India's Pioneer reports. Ramadoss said this year's health ministry budget will be 31% larger than last year's, and the government plans to promote more HIV/AIDS programs, such as including discussion of HIV/AIDS in sex education classes at schools. The government also plans to let the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation use Indian Railways for "HIV/AIDS awareness trains" to travel throughout the country, according to the Pioneer. "We want every single person in the country to know about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it," Ramadoss said, adding, "Only then will we be able to stop the spread of the pandemic" (Pioneer, 4/5).