New Delhi: A charter of rights to be introduced by the Union government aims to gives all patients—including HIV patients and those from the LGBTQ+ community—the right to receive medical treatment, regardless of their illness or condition.
The charters of patients’ rights has been drawn up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The health ministry is planning to implement it through state governments after the final draft is finalized after considering comments from stakeholders. The current draft is available for comments by public and stakeholders.
The charter aims to provide proper healthcare to all patients, including the LGBTQ+ community and HIV patients, by clinical establishments.
The initial draft, available on the website, says, “Every patient has the right to receive treatment without any discrimination based on his or her illnesses or conditions, including HIV status or other health condition, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, linguistic or geographical/social origins."
“The hospital management has a duty to ensure that no form of discriminatory behaviour or treatment takes place with any person under the hospital’s care. The hospital management must regularly orient and instruct all its doctors and staff regarding the same."
The move may further reinforce the rights of the LGBTQ+ community after the Supreme Court last week scrapped section 377 that criminalized homosexuality.
In parallel, the ministry of health and family welfare on Tuesday announced the enforcement of HIV and AIDS Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017. Men who have sex with men, as well as transgenders, are among important affected groups of people living with HIV in India.
The LGBTQ+ community and HIV patients have been subjected to social discrimination which further impedes their right to healthcare. “The government has been focusing on the healthcare rights of LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS patients. There was a dire need to remove the stigma and provide them the best medical treatment they deserve," said Alok Saxena, joint secretary, Union health ministry. The Act, which received Presidential assent on 20 April 2017, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, and places obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights. It also aims to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“Till about a decade and a half ago, PLHIVs (people living with HIV) faced several challenges once they tested positive, particularly from healthcare providers, hospitals or clinics. Even today, PLHIVs in the LGBT community faces double stigma for being a part of the community and for being HIV positive," said V Sam Prasad, Country Programme Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation India Care said.
“This is the reason many of them became secretive about their condition and lived in seclusion and isolation. The decision of Supreme Court and health ministry will ensure protection of their rights, reduce taboos and increase visibility for their issues. Services provided to this community, such as health, entitlements or legal protection will now be regulated and protected from abuse and exploitation," he said.