The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) worldwide is celebrating – with AHF India – the recent passing of the HIV/AIDS bill in the parliament of that country which prohibits discrimination against people living with HIV.
“This is a very significant milestone in India’s advocacy for health – which we have been involved in for many years, together with other advocacy groups in the country like Lawyers Collective,” says Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy.
“This bill has been stuck in Parliament for more than 10 years,” Ford explains. “We advocated for movement on it every time we met with leading Parliamentarians. In fact some of AHF’s specific edits have been included in the bill.”
The HIV and AIDS Bill prohibits discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, which has been a serious issue in India for many years. Citizens with the disease may no longer be denied services at hospitals, or when renting property, applying for employment and/or healthcare, enrolling for education and applying for insurance.
The draft law will introduce legal accountability and establish a mechanism to probe complaints against those who discriminate against those living with HIV/AIDS.
Anyone found contravening the law can be sentenced to a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years imprisonment and a hefty fine. This bill opens the door for possibility for strong legal advocacy when needed.
“AHF South Africa applauds India finally putting legislation in place to protect those living with HIV/AIDS in that country,” says Larissa Klazinga, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager, Southern Africa.
“Although South Africa’s Constitution and law prohibits discrimination against our citizens living with HIV/AIDS, it is still an ongoing battle to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease.”
South African citizens are protected in the workplace and elsewhere via Section 14 of the Constitution, Section 54(1)(a) and Section 6(1) of the Employment Equity Act, Section 187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act.
“Sadly, many of those living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa are unaware of their rights and – when intimidated – do not realise that they can fight back,” Klazinga explains.
“Education also plays a big part in this – on both sides. AHF is continually creating awareness in the community and encouraging the public to deal with any prejudice, especially because of the country’s high rate of HIV infection.”
Legal Aid SA and other organizations (such as Section 27, based in Johannesburg but accessible via telephone and email) offer advice and assistance to anyone in South Africa battling with discrimination because of their HIV/AIDS status.
ABOUT THE AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the world. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 600,000 individuals in 35 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia.