World AIDS Day 2017: Argentina remains without an effective HIV and hepatitis law

It’s perceived, that due to the lack of political will of the national government and a lack of interest from senators, a Bill, intended to reform Argentina’s 1990 AIDS law, has been dropped from discussion in parliament.

Parliamentary discussion on a Bill, which would have brought much needed reform to Argentina’s 1990 AIDS law, has been shelved. Key stakeholders have been developing the proposed updates over three years. Our partner, Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (GEP) is one of the key civil society partners, plus Frente Nacional por la Salud de las Personas con VIH, along with scientific institutions and provincial, national and international bodies, such as the National Ministry of Health of Argentina, the Panamerican Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and UNAIDS.

Even though the Bill received a favourable verdict from the Chamber of Deputies just five months ago, back in July 2017, the bill was later hampered. Despite repeated requests from civil society to both the ‘Commission of General Legislation’ and the ‘Commission of Budget and Treasurer’, there has been refusal to discuss the Bill further.

The excuse provided to civil society last week is that the Bill has “technical errors”, to which José María Di Bello, FGEP Secretary replies: “Our organizations were always attentive and at their disposal to make any further revisions,” he said. “We believe that the deputies did not have the political will to move forward with this Bill, apparently health, hepatitis and HIV is not important to them”. Many people living with stage 4 of hepatitis C infection are desperately waiting for treatment. “If this Bill had been approved, the treatment would have been available already,” Di Bello added.

If this Bill had been approved, treatment would have been available already – José María Di Bello

What needs to change?

In Argentina around 120,000 people are living with HIV, with approximately 30% not aware of their status. The current HIV/AIDS Law N° 23.798 adopted in 1990, needs to be updated to apply a comprehensive approach and a human rights perspective. The Bill (N° E6139-D-16) incorporates a social view of prevention and treatment; addresses the condition of children and adolescents born with HIV; provides punishments for HIV discrimination; and guarantees the development of an Observatory against stigma that still affects people living with HIV. On top of that, the Bill covers other STDs and viral hepatitis. The case of hepatitis C is serious; around 400,000 people suffer from this illness in Argentina and most of them are in advanced stages of the infection but do not have access to medicines and related care.

What we are discussing is the right to health of Argentinians and quality of life of affected people – Lorena Di Giano

“This extremely necessary Bill goes back to scratch since there is no commitment from the Government and legislators to move forward with it. What we are discussing is the right to health of Argentinians and quality of life of affected people”, says Lorena Di Giano, Executive Director of FGEP.