History has been made in India, with the nation’s parliament passing groundbreaking legislation to ensure equal rights for those who are living with HIV.
Being the first of its kind in the Eastern World, the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill intends to protect HIV-positive people from being denied work, having access to education, housing, health care, and even specifies and protects an individual’s right to hold public or private office.
The new legislation which also prohibits businesses from refusing entry to anyone who is HIV-positive has ben praised by HIV activists in India and follows reports of harassment by authorities against HIV foundation volunteers trying to educate men who have sex with men about safer sex practices.
While India decriminalised same-sex sexual activity in 2009 after a Delhi high court ruled that the nation’s existing law was a violation of a person’s fundamental rights. The Indian Supreme Court chose to overturn the ruling and uphold the ban on same-sex sexual activity, saying that only India’s Parliament has the right to overturn the anti-gay legislation.
With the new ant-discriminative HIV legislation taking 15 years to make it to parliament since its initial drafting, activists warn that despite the country’s historic move, HIV stigma is rampant in the public’s mindset, and believe that any future progress regarding LGBTI rights could be years away.
UNAIDS estimates that there are currently over 2 million people living with HIV in India, with nearly all of them experiencing discrimination of some sort, ranging from slurs, job losses to reports of being forced to drink poison.