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NGOs see red over dead HIV+ constable's name going public

In what is being seen as a major breach of human rights, the Mumbai police commissioner’s office issued a release yesterday to the entire police force for identifying a constable who had died while undergoing treatment for HIV.

NGOs working towards the awareness of AIDS control are seeing red as they believe such an act is a violation of human rights, and the deceased’s family will have to bear the consequences of such an irresponsible act for years to come.

Yesterday, the Mumbai police department issued a circular in Marathi mentioning the name, batch number, station he was attached to and address of the police constable who died while undergoing treatment for HIV infection in Pune on November 5.

Sources in the police department said that notices normally issued from the Mumbai police commissioner’s office carry information on deaths of policemen on and off duty.

“It’s a huge violation of human rights. Because of this mistake, the entire family will now have to face stigma for several years,” said Dr Mittal who works with Jyothis Care Centre, an NGO that works for the betterment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

She added, “When we come across any deaths resulting from HIV infection, we avoid disclosing the cause of death in the certificate as relatives and the neighbours may react inappropriately if they found out. It is not easy for the next of kin to survive in society due to the way this illness is looked upon.”

Officials of the AIDS Society of India revealed that there is no particular law or Government Resolution that pertains to restriction on revealing identities of HIV/AIDS patients. One bill which pertains to the anti-discrimination law for HIV patients is pending before the Parliament for a decade now. If passed, anyone breaking the rule would be liable to be prosecuted.

“Since there is no bill in place, such an offence can only be treated as a violation of human rights and offenders can be prosecuted under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. Revealing the identity of a patient is mandatory, but only under oath of law and not otherwise.

In case of a dispute between a married couple based on allegations that one of them is suffering from HIV, the doctor who is called to testify in court can reveal the identity of the accused under oath of law,” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, president of the AIDS Society of India.

Mumbai police PRO Nisar Tamboli said, “I will check what has happened.” 

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