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Frame laws to protect human rights of HIV/AIDS infected: UNAIDS

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 26 (UNI) UNAIDS today stressed the need for framing laws to fight discrimination being faced by HIV/AIDS infected people and called for their greater involvement in policy making for an effective AIDS response in India.

Releasing the 'Combat Law' special issue on HIV and AIDS brought out by the Human Rights Law Network here, Dr Denis Broun called for investigation and documentation of human rights violation of people infected with HIV/AIDS. Pointing out that stigma being faced by people living with HIV/AIDS cannot be fought, but discrimination can certainly be as ''the law and the constitution could restrain the heartless.'' Pointing that the 5.2 million Indians living with HIV/AIDS are subjected to various discrimination including losing their livelihood, children being denied education and lack of care and support, Mr Broun called for effective laws to deal with this.

Terming the denial of health rights to infected people as completely ''unethical and unacceptable,'' he stressed the need for defining all the rights of these hapless people, especially their right to treatment and living with respect and dignity. He said that right to confidentiality from media, police and society and right to care and support be provided to them and for that a balance between human rights and public health is necessary.

He hoped that the draft bill on HIV/AIDS would be passed by Parliament this year giving right to treatment, care support and being treated with dignity and respect to the infected people.

However, he vehemently opposed the move for mandatory pre-marital testing for HIV/AIDS as being proposed in Goa and Maharashtra.

Advising the state governments against the move, Mr Broun said that this would not only violate the right to confidentiality but also cause more discrimination to the marginalised sections of the society especially women.

He said that he would visit Mumbai and Goa to talk to people so that a wider debate is generated before a decision was taken on such a crucial issue. In Maharashtra, a lawyers' organisation has moved the Bombay High Court demanding the state government should introduce mandatory HIV testing before marriage. The Goa government is already contemplating such a move.

The UNAIDS official stressed the need for removing the ''article 377--a relic of colonisation'' under which homosexuality a criminal offence. He said this pushes the gay couples underground and makes them more vulnerable to catch the HIV/AIDS infection and prevent them from accessing their health rights. These (gay) people should also be given equal rights under the constitution which prevents any kind of discrimination.

Mr Broun also called for more deliberation with the stakeholders i.e sexworkers on the bill to regulate trafficking as it would have a long term impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.

Adult sex workers need to be given recognition as it would provide them some rights as well as duties which would include prevention of spread of HIV/AIDS.

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