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Cabinet approves HIV/AIDS Decree

Timoci Vula
Thursday, January 20, 2011

THERE is fresh hope that with the HIV/AIDS Decree 2011, more people will have the confidence to be tested without fear of stigma, discrimination, loss of human rights and breach of confidentiality.

The decree, approved by Cabinet on Tuesday, aims to safeguard the privacy and rights of persons infected or affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), including the confidentiality of personal information.

Other objectives of the decree are to;

* create an environment where persons are encouraged to go for voluntary testing;

* counselling and support services;

* empower an affected person to seek redress from professional bodies and the courts when their rights are violated and;

* promote the need for everyone to be personally responsible for their own health and that of others through duty of care.

"All levels of the health system will develop and enact their own implementation plans on HIV/AIDS that are consistent with this decree," Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma submitted to Cabinet.

He said the decree would be supported by a national policy and guidelines developed by the National Board for HIV/AIDS.

in consultation with all stakeholders and development partners.

Also under the decree, he said people living with HIV/AIDS would not only have safeguards for their human rights and aspirations, but also have a duty of care and responsibility to the health of others.

"This is a new victory in the battle against the HIV pandemic and we'd like to sincerely acknowledge the leadership of the Minister of Health on this issue," Pacific Islands Aids Foundation (PIAF) chief executive Maire Bopp said yesterday.

"It shows that while Fiji may be labelled by some international communities as having derogated from the normal standard of human rights in terms of democracy, the passing of the decree shows that the country is rebuilding and giving fair rights to those that in many other countries are still legally discriminated," Ms Bopp said.

PIAF legal training officer and policy analyst Laitia Tamata said the decree would now make its normal legislative path from Cabinet to the office of the President who would, upon signing the decree, bring it to force.

"That process will take some time but we should see the HIV decree make national law in Fiji as early as next month," Mr Tamata said of the decree that had been in draft form since 2003.

"With this current government taking the onus to making it law, it is a great achievement in terms of human rights protection by a State that is also true and committed to the regional and global commitments made by past leaders."

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