Mumbai: HIV-afflicted suffer as state fails to appoint ombudsman
In 2017, the Act made it compulsory for state governments to appoint one or more ombudsman to bring legal accountability, and formulate a mechanism to inquire into the complaints of people living with HIV
Every state government must appoint at least one ombudsman to hear the pleas of people living with HIV, under the Human Immunodeficiency Virus And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention And Control) Act, 2017. But it has been over two years since the Act was formulated that the Maharashtra government has failed to implement it. It could have helped fast track cases and given justice to patients, claimed medicos.
In 2017, the Act made it compulsory for state governments to appoint one or more ombudsman to bring legal accountability, and formulate a mechanism to inquire into the complaints of people living with HIV.
"The ombudsman shall, upon a complaint made by any person, inquire into the violations of the provisions of this Act, in relation to acts of discrimination mentioned in section 3 and providing of healthcare services by any person, in such manner as may be prescribed by the state government," reads the new law.
As the government has failed to appoint an ombudsman, patients living with HIV have to approach the police for justice, which often takes a longer time. The Act also states that the ombudsman has to pass an order within 30 days of getting a complaint. Also, if the complaint deals with a medical emergency, the ombudsman has to give the verdict within 24 hours.
Talking about the Act, Dr I S Gilada, consultant in HIV/STDs and president, AIDS Society of India (ASI), said, "The Act was formulated to give faster and accurate justice to patients suffering from HIV. But sadly, it hasn't been implemented in the state. Patients are often harassed and humiliated when people find that they are living with HIV. An independent body like an ombudsman can play a major role in protecting the rights of such patients."
Dr Padmaja Keskar, project director, Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society, did not respond to attempts to contact her. According to the Act, the ombudsman will have to submit his/her report about total number and nature of complaints received to the state government every six months. The report must be published on the website of the state ombudsman.
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