Health workers cannot refuse to provide treatment to HIV-positive people, India's Supreme Court rules

A panel of India's Supreme Court on Wednesday approved instructions from the country's Centre Party that health care workers in all government and private hospitals cannot refuse medical treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS, The Hindu reports.

The Supreme Court panel -- consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, as well as Justices Ashok Bhan and P. Sathasivam -- ruled that all of India's states should implement the Centre's instructions, which state that all medical professionals in both public and private sectors must treat people living with HIV/AIDS "in a professional manner, treating them always with dignity and care" and with "no discrimination of stigma whatsoever." Health workers cannot refuse medical treatment based on a person's HIV/AIDS status, and those working in the private sector "in particular are directed to immediately familiarize themselves with the National AIDS Control Organisation's comprehensive protocols and policies with regard to care and treatment," the Centre's instructions said. In addition, reports of denial of services to HIV-positive people should be considered serious and investigated, the instructions said, adding that all states should ensure that certain districts have at least one antiretroviral treatment center (The Hindu, 10/2).

According to the Economic Times, the Centre's instructions also called for "strict action" on "all irrational prescriptions" of antiretrovirals, as well as a ban on advertisements offering potential cures for HIV/AIDS because "there is no proven cure available for HIV/AIDS so far." Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium also told the Supreme Court panel that India's primary health centers in rural states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were "working very well." The panel disagreed and said that in some rural parts of the country, "there is no doctor available. Even in a 50-bedded hospital not a single doctor is present" (Economic Times, 10/2).

Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2008 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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