By meghna at 1 December, 2009, 9:21 pm
AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome as the name itself suggests that the disease is not from birth and can effect anybody.
The disease is not only found in humans but also in lions. It is a condition in which the patients immune system is unable to protect him/her from infections. Therefore serious diseases like TB, some cancers, thrush, shingles, certain types of pneumonia and some mental diseases may effect the patient. The patient doesn’t die of AIDS but because of the consequent diseases he gets from it.
There are numerous medical searches done in this regard and recently the United Nations has changed it strategy towards the treatment of the disease. But till we find a medical solution to the issue we should address it under legal problems.
In Indian Society sex is a taboo and people believe that sex is the only reason that causes the disease. They ignore other causes like HIV infected blood and blood products, infected needles and syringes and breast feeding from an infected mother to her child. They believe that the patient is solely responsible for his condition and is divinely punished.
But the dogmas don’t end there itself, everyone makes sure that the person is socially punished too. So it hardly makes a difference to us whether the victim is a school going child or she is an innocent wife who got the disease from her husband or the patient was a victim of an infected razor, needle, syringe or even blood transfusion. We just believe that the person is a social criminal who if cannot be punished by law should be punished by the society.
If the plea of unawareness is granted to the rural people. What defense should guard the doctors who deny treatment to the HIV or to those literate people who wrote on the forehead of a woman that she was an HIV patient?
The elite strata of the society is well aware of the fact that AIDS does not spread through sharing of food, insect bites, sneezing, caughing, hugging, sharing same toilets etc. But they still discriminate children with HIV from the rest of the people. It is noteworthy that on World Aids Day, people are writing about the discrimination done to the AIDS patients why aren’t such writings done on a Malaria Day or Cancer Day? Probably because everyone does consider these patients as a different class. The medical field would succeed when a solution to Aids is found but law would win when the social lacuna is sorted out.
Past three years have been dramatic in this regard. Health Minister Ramdoss had promised in various conferences that a legislation would be passed to ensure non discrimination of the effected people.
According to the Bill, an ombuds person would be appointed, he may be any person who has working experience or extensive knowledge of public health or health care delivery systems. He must be independent and sensitive to issues addressed in the Bill. “He or she may be from the IAS, a healthcare provider or a person working in an NGO,” the Bill states. “They will also help health care providers get gloves, masks and other universal precautions to ensure that there is no impediment in treatment. Further, they will act as a watchdog in cases of quackery.When it comes to violations, the health ombudsperson may pass orders in cases of emergency including directing admissions, operations, or treatment and the provision of universal precautions,” the Bill adds.
The ombudsperson can also “pass orders directing the person who has committed the violation to undergo a fixed period of counselling related to the violation committed and a fixed period of social service”.
“As per the Bill, an ombudsman will be appointed in every district of the country and will have the power to listen to cases related to discrimination and ask for an audit,” Grover, also a leading Supreme Court lawyer, said.
But unfortunately the law ministry has not taken any significant step in this direction. The only relief people have got is from the judiciary. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the HIV patients can not be denied employment solely on the basis of his HIV status. Moreover the state must properly utilize the funds granted by centre for the welfare of HIV patients.
Allowing access to medicine patents, compensation to those who got HIV due to the medical negligence, Public Interest Litigations and punishing the quakes have all been possible due to the efforts of judiciary. However the patients are granted the right to privacy, this right is not an absolute one. A patients right to confidentiality is not enforceable in a situation where the patient is HIV positive and if he stood the risk of spreading it to his prospective spouse.
The judiciary has tried to protect the interest of the HIV patients to a large extent. The decriminalization of Section 377 related to adult private consensual act of homosexuality was also a step in this regard.