India, which has the world's second-largest population of HIV-positive people, plans to introduce a law to stop discrimination against people infected with the virus, the health minister said this week. Overwhelming stigma is attached to people who are HIV-positive in India, and many of the country's 5.1 million HIV-positive people face severe discrimination because of widespread lack of awareness about the illness. Activists say many employees of hotels, factories, and textile firms have lost jobs after testing positive. They are either forced to quit, given early retirement, or declared unfit to work.
"People living with HIV/AIDS face stigma and discrimination, and, therefore, care and support to such patients needs to be mainstreamed through general health services," said a health ministry statement.
"We have finalized draft legislation to end discrimination against AIDS patients," health minister Anbumani Ramadoss told an AIDS conference. "It has gone to the law ministry and will be presented to parliament."
India's HIV problem has assumed serious proportions despite health programs to halt its spread. Over the years, HIV has moved beyond traditionally high-risk groups such as prostitutes, drug users, and gay men. Experts say the number of those infected could quadruple by 2010, and the World Bank has warned that the disease could become the single largest cause of death in the world's second most populous country unless there is progress on prevention. (Reuters)