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Amendments to HIV/AIDS bill approved by Union Cabinet
In a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister today, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to the HIV & AIDS Bill, 2014.
According to the new bill, for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, anti-retroviral treatment (ART) will now be a legal right. The bill has made it compulsory for the central and state governments to provide ART facilities to the patients. As per the new bill, acts of discrimination by the state, or any other person, against HIV-positive people, or those living with such people, is prohibited.

Prohibiting discrimination against the patients, the bill has criminalised denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance.

As per the amended bill, any person propagating hatred against HIV positive people through written or spoken word with an intention to expose them to discrimination or physical violence can be punished with imprisonment of three months to two years, and fine of up to Rs one lakh.

The new bill has also done away with the provision of making an HIV testing compulsory for obtaining employment or accessing health care. Also, HIV related information has been made confidential and publishing any sort of information that could compromise the rights of HIV patients has been prohibited.

A statement issued after the meeting said, "No person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by court order."

As per the new provisions, every HIV patient who is below the age of 18 years, will have the legal right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household.

In case the patient is a minor but more than 12 years of age, the new bill allows him/her to act as a guardian and manage the affairs of the family.

The bill has also mandated that if cases involving HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis. Also, in case of a legal proceeding to which an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant.

When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.

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