UPDATED: New Law to Combat Discrimination Against Venezuelans with HIV/AIDS

A law protecting the equal rights of Venezuelan people living with HIV/AIDS and their families has been made official, after being approved by Parliament on August 14th.

By Z.C. Dutka

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Santa Elena de Uairen, January 6th, 2015. (venezuelanalysis.com)- A law protecting the equal rights of Venezuelan people living with HIV/AIDS and their families has been made official, after being approved by Parliament on August 14th.

Composed of seven chapters and 41 articles, the law appeared in last week's edition of the Official Gazette, thereby confirming its inclusion the Venezuelan legal system.

According to government authorities, the idea emerged from a proposal brought to the National Assembly by a group of HIV-positive Venezuelans who denounced the societal misconceptions which limit their freedom as citizens.

“They organized themselves and obtained the support of the public defender [former ombudswoman Gabriela Ramirez], and the debate was brought to the National Assembly,” explained Oswaldo Vera, president of the Assembly’s Commission for Social Development.

“The wider population must understand that this sickness cannot be contracted by shaking hands with someone who is HIV positive,” Vera said during a radio broadcast after the Assembly's approval in August, expressing his hopes that the media will support national efforts to eradicate this discrimination.

“The amount of misinformation causes more damage than people can imagine,” Zoraida Rodriguez, a nurse of Bolivar state, told venezuelanalysis.com.

“Many people believe that only homosexuals have HIV, and that makes patients even more reluctant to be honest about their condition, even with their healthcare professionals.”

The Venezuelan health department says an approximate 42,000 Venezuelans receive monthly treatment for HIV or AIDS, though a United Nations body has estimated that 0.6 percent of the population live with the virus- a statistic which may represent between 74,000 and 160,000 individuals.

All Venezuelans are eligible to free healthcare, though HIV/AIDS patients are additionally entitled to counseling for themselves and their families.

The new law obliges health centers to attend HIV positive ands AIDS patients without delay, limitation, or conditions, while employing the same strict measures of hygiene and security that should be the norm for all patients. At the same time, it demands that hospitals obtain patients’ consent before testing for the immunodeficiency virus.

It also prohibits discrimination in the workplace, in schools and media, and protects each individuals’ right to privacy regarding their health condition in all three areas.

In a statement released in August, former ombudswoman Ramirez warned, “what is potentially and fatally contagious is the lack of sensitivity regarding people with this illness,” indicating that the upcoming informative campaign will also include authentic reports on safety and precaution to avoid further spread of the virus.

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