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“As far as possible” the aftermath of the HIV/AIDS bill

States have run out of HIV medications with no sign of replenishment, despite the recent HIV/AIDS bill.

In May, an HIV/AIDS bill was launched by the Health Ministry that was hailed as a historic accomplishment in the fight for human rights for those infected with the condition. The bill was however called out by many rights groups over the use of a specific phrase in section 14 (1): “as far as possible”.

The phrase was in reference to the treatment of the condition, in which treatment will be given as far as possible. While politicians assured those bringing up the issue that treatment would be provided, many asked for these assurances to be placed into writing, as the legal precedent set by the term was considered concerning.

Campaigners consider the clause a legal backdoor to step down from any government pledge to maintain free treatment. Tripti Tandon of Lawyers’ Collective says, “(The clause) gives an opening to the government to evade any accountability.”

No more than two months after the passing of the bill, a number of states have run out of the antiretrovirals that are vital in the treatment of the condition. The states facing the brunt of the shortages are Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Maharashtra and Delhi. Patients who treat intermittently with the medicines which they have been prescribed are more likely to develop strains of HIV that are resistant to the existing classes of treatment.

The lack of medicine is the tip of the iceberg. Scroll.In reports that in addition to the lack of medication available to some states, equipment related to diagnosis and treatment of HIV is also either out of stock or non-functional. Diagnostics machines as well as kits to detect immune levels in patients are lacking in the following states: Gujarat, Assam, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh and Nagaland. Many are affected heavily by HIV.

Many people with HIV are now resorting to selling their belongings out of desperation to buy the medication from the open market., according to the National Coalition of People Living with HIV in India which wrote a letter to the National Aids Control Organisation requesting that the medication and equipment be restocked immediately.

Some rural HIV patients have stopped travelling to urban health care centres out of frustration due to multiple trips in which they are turned away without their medication. This could lead to a disastrous outcome in which disease symptoms may worsen as the virus more freely replicates while the antiretrovirals are unavailable. This could lead to deaths or increased rates of transmission.

The bill however is a false source to blame for the shortages, they are not a direct result of it. Shortages of medication have occurred multiple times in the past. These shortages are seemingly quite frequent, occurring 32 times during June 2012 to February 2015 period. The shortages are widely attributed to a lack of communication between healthcare centres and those stocking the medications, some centres only making arrangements to restock once they have run out of stock.

While the HIV/AIDS bill has seemingly changed little for those with the condition in the short run, it has made it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate based on disease status. The rights of HIV positive individuals are now enshrined in law, guarantee of treatment is seemingly not.


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