What we know about one of the worst pandemics in human history.
The Act provides for the prevention, control and protection of human rights of persons affected by the human immunodeficiency virus HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome AIDS.
Given the fact that till , India had the third-largest HIV epidemic in the world and over 2. The judiciary, however, while recognising the need for a legal framework that provides for both prevention and treatment, established that discrimination on the grounds of HIV is a violation of Article 14 fundamental right to equality of the Constitution of India.
The Act also aims to protect the human rights of such persons and appears to be a progressive development in India. For instance, every establishment engaged in healthcare services or where there is a significant risk of occupational exposure to HIV, is obligated to ensure a safe working environment by providing information and training regarding universal precautions and post-exposure preventive measures available to all persons who are working in the establishment and who may be occupationally exposed to HIV or AIDS.
Every establishment consisting of or more persons or healthcare establishments with 20 or more persons, in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the statute, is required to appoint a Complaints Officer for redressal of grievances arising from violations of the statute in the establishment.
While the statute seems to be a step in the positive direction, it suffers from certain gaps. The Act does not specify what constitutes a qualified healthcare provider.
In the absence of a definition of a qualified healthcare provider, or any detail of what action could be taken against a healthcare provider who provides any incorrect statement, the Act does not envisage any remedy available to an employee.
Nor does the Act require employers to tell authorities when they are terminating employment for either of the reasons described above. Despite the aforementioned deficiencies, the Act is a step in the right direction as it asks employers to ensure that their establishments are inclusive and respectful towards the uniqueness of every individual.
The statute also imposes penalties on employers acting in contravention of the provisions of the Act and, thereby, aims to serve as a deterrent mechanism against discriminatory practices adopted by employers against protected persons.
It is expected that these rules, when enacted, would provide clarifications for the shortcomings in the Act, as they currently exist. It can be anticipated that the rules will cover aspects relating to powers of the Ombudsman and lay down guidelines to be followed by pathology laboratories and diagnostic centres while undertaking tests or treatment of an HIV-infected person.
However, till it is eradicated from India, the Act will at least help in protecting the interests of affected persons and safeguarding their fundamental rights.
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