We’re reading about India’s new HIV law as a measure of progress and missed opportunity

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With funding for HIV responses under threat at home and abroad, a look at the rights that are both protected and unaddressed under India’s new HIV law offers a chance to size up some of the greatest challenges to ending the public health threat of the virus more than three and a half decades into the HIV pandemic, and more than 20 years since the advent of effective treatment.

Parliament clears landmark HIV bill – If you remember the Uganda parliament’s passage of its 2014 “HIV Prevention and Control Bill,”  with its lengthy prison terms and fines for “intentional” and “attempted” transmission of HIV, you may greet with skepticism the announcement of India’s new HIV law, which began to make its way through that country’s parliament the same year the Uganda bill was launched. This bill, however, aims in the direction its title implies, banning discrimination, harassment and unauthorized disclosure of people living with HIV, easing access to health services, supporting principles of medical confidentiality and informed consent and promoting evidence-based prevention.

HIV/AIDS Bill: Legally enabling – While requiring access to health insurance, the bill does not, however, ensure treatment for the roughly 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, this editorial notes. Acknowledging that this omission is disappointing, the writer calls the new law “a good base for an active health rights movement to build upon.”

India betrays people living with HIV by approving law that undermines right to life – This release from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, however, tells a story of the input provided over the last three years by an active health rights movement, who asked that the bill build in a codification of government responsibility for providing treatment to people living with HIV in India, home to the third-largest number of people living with the virus in the world.

HIV-specific criminal laws – In the meantime, in the United States where access to health insurance for people living with HIV remains an endangered work in progress, by the third decade of the epidemic 33 states were home to a total of 67 laws specifically criminalizing people with HIV, for acts already covered by general criminal laws, and including for behaviors posing little or no realistic risk of transmission, according to this piece from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It links to a map and chart of the laws.

A Bill — To modernize laws and policies, and eliminate discrimination, with respect to people living with HIV/AIDS – This bill introduced last month by Rep. Barbara Lee and co-sponsors aims to begin to catch up with India, with a mandate to examine the evidence behind HIV-specific laws, and rid this country of those barriers to diagnosis, treatment and dignity.

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