Explain lack of law on AIDS patients’ rights, SC tells govt

Kathmandu, October 17:

The Supreme Court today issued show cause notices to the government authorities seeking their clarifications on why law to protect rights of the HIV/AIDS infected people has not been promulgated yet. A single bench of acting Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri issued the order responding to a writ petition filed by some non-government organisations working for the welfare of HIV-infected people.

The bench ordered the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Ministry of Health and Population, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control to submit their written explanations within 15 days on why law to protect the rights of the HIV/AIDS infected people has not been promulgated yet. The bench has prioritised the issue giving it due importance.

A number of NGOs, including the Nepal Environmental Lawyers Association represented by lawyer Rishiram Ghimire, lodged the petition seeking the SC’s order to the authorities to promulgate law in this regard. The petitioners have claimed that there are at least 100,000 HIV/AIDS patients in the country whose rights to treatment among others have been violated. They have also accused the authorities concerned of treating them discriminately.

The writ petition states that only 5,500 of the nearly 100,000 HIV/AIDS patients have declared

their condition, while the others have been trying their best to hide the fact fearing that they would face discrimination if they revealed the secret. “Being infected with HIV/AIDS should not be the sole reason to be discriminated against and the HIV patients are being treated differently even while getting health services,” the writ petition stated.

The NGOs claimed that at least 20 million people are HIV positive all over the world and half of them have already developed AIDS while 3.1 million AIDS patients died in 2004. According to them, there are nine million AIDS patients living in Asian countries. The petitioners have said it is illegal and unconstitutional to discriminate against HIV/AIDS patients who also enjoy the right to equality under Article 11 of the 1990 Constitution; so there is a dire need to issue an SC order to promulgate law in this regard.