HIV Advocates, Sex Workers in India Call for Passage of Bill Aimed at Reducing HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma, Discrimination
More than 200 HIV advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS and commercial sex workers rallied in the Indian city of Pune on Thursday, calling for the passage of a bill that aims to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, India's Daily News & Analysis reports (Daily News & Analysis, 5/23).
The bill, which is 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. The bill in its current form includes measures such as the right to equality, autonomy, privacy, health, safe working environments and information. According to Anand Grover, director of the HIV/AIDS unit at the Lawyers 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. Individuals also would be permitted to approach courts directly without contacting an ombudsperson, according to the bill. The bill already has been accepted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/22).
The advocates raised slogans, such as "Discrimination Kills, Pass the HIV Bill." They also met with Pune's Municipal Commissioner Pravinsinh Pardeshi, who said their concerns would be forwarded to the state government, and other health officials. The rally, which was organized by sex workers, drew representatives from the Soudamini Network of Positive Women, the Deep Griha Society and other nongovernmental organizations.
Ujwala Kadam of SNPW said the protesters "wanted to reach out to the civic body and the district health machinery, sensitize them to our cause and seek their support for the bill." HIV advocate Pankaj Bedi said the bill "ensures a legal framework in place for protecting the right to quality health care and right to information," adding that its passage is "imperative." A sex worker attending the rally added that the bill is "empowering" and will help sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS "seek medical services without any discrimination" (Daily News & Analysis, 5/23).