Indian Bill Would Appoint District Officials To Address HIV/AIDS-Related Discrimination
A bill under consideration by India's Ministry of Law and Justice would appoint health officials in all districts in the country to address HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, IANS/Yahoo! News reports (IANS/Yahoo! News, 2/20). The bill, which aims to protect the rights of people living with the virus, was drafted by the HIV/AIDS unit at the Lawyers Collective in 2006 following research and discussions with stakeholders nationwide. The Indian Network for People Living With HIV/AIDS last week called on the country's Parliament to consider the bill during its upcoming budget session. The bill in its current form includes measures such as the right to equality, autonomy, privacy, health, safe working environments and information (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/20).
According to Anand Grover, director of the HIV/AIDS unit at the collective, the bill calls for an official, or ombudsperson, to be appointed in every district of the country to hear cases of HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and ask for audits. Under the measure, an ombudsperson would start investigations of HIV/AIDS-related discrimination after receiving a written complaint or directions from a court. Individuals also would be permitted to approach courts directly without contacting an ombudsperson, according to the bill.
The bill defines an ombudsperson as anyone who has working experience or knowledge of public health or health infrastructures. The person must be independent and aware of issues addressed in the bill, according to the measure, IANS/Yahoo! News reports. The ombudspersons will "help health care providers get gloves, masks and other universal precautions to ensure that there is no impediment in treatment," and they will "act as a watchdog" in some cases, the bill says.
The bill also notes that a health ombudsperson "may pass orders in cases of emergency, including directing admissions, operations, or treatment and the provision of universal precautions." In addition, the official can "pass orders directing the person who has committed the violations to undergo a fixed period of counseling related to the violation committed and a fixed period of social service." The bill emphasizes that the ombudsperson will "act as a pressure valve for the legal system by providing quick and alternative remedies rather than encouraging litigation."
The bill already has been accepted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, IANS/Yahoo! News reports. A health ombudsperson "is a good concept to deliver health care and social prestige without giving rise to stigma," Naresh Yadav of the network, said. The bill "will help people get justice without going to a court and it would be a podium for speedy disposal of cases of such nature," Grover added (IANS/Yahoo! News, 2/20).