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Monday, Nov 22, 2004

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AIDS draft law to stress on non-discrimination at work place

Nithya Subramanian

Recently in Goa

NON-discrimination at workplace, access to services, insurance and putting in place a grievance redressal mechanism are all part of the draft legislation on HIV/AIDS in India.

The draft, prepared by the Lawyers Collective, after consultations with the Government, National AIDS Controls Organisation (NACO) and non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) has categorically stated that the law would apply to both the State and any person, public and private, in the organised and unorganised sectors.

According to Mr Vivek Diwan of Lawyers Collective, HIV/AIDS positive people cannot be discriminated against at workplace.

"Employment can be terminated only if the person causes significant risk or is medically unfit," he said. However, healthcare workers would have the right to safe working environment and universal precaution.

The law, which is likely to be submitted next month to the Health Ministry, has also said there should be no discrimination regarding access to services, institutions and insurance. Besides the judiciary, the law has also envisaged several grievance mechanisms. If the violation of the HIV/AIDS Act is health related, it should be referred to a Health Ombudsman, if it is institution related it could be referred to a Complaints Officer.

The proposed legislation also seeks speedy trials that can be conducted in-camera.

The draft addresses requirement of informed consent for HIV-related testing, treatment and research. It also talks about proxy consent in case of a minor, disability or emergency. The law emphasises the duty of the State to provide access to treatment. However, the penalties for violations have not yet been finalised.

Mr Diwan said: "The penalties will be finalised in the next few weeks and we hope to submit the report to the Health Minister, Dr A. Ramadoss, next month."

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