Pune: It's been two decades since the government launched its battle against discrimination of HIV positive people with an iconic advertisement, crores of rupees have been spent to counter persecution of the HIV infected.
But the campaign ironically has failed to eliminate prejudice even within the government departments.
A 41-year-old bus driver from Pune, an HIV positive, was sacked by the State Transport Department last month. The sole breadwinner in the family, his teenage son was then forced to quit studies; he now works as a security guard.
In 2008, the driver tested positive and voluntarily disclosed his status to his employers. Considerably weakened by the disease and fearful of putting the lives of passengers at risk he wrote to the STC asking to be moved to a non-driving job last year.
Medical tests at the government-run Sasoon hospital too declared that he was unfit for driving heavy vehicles. The STC chose to sack him instead on the basis of that report.
The State Transport Corporation in its defence quotes the rule book - the divisional controller told CNN-IBN - the rules only provided for accommodating drivers in a desk job in case of accidents, where the individual is 40 per cent disabled.
Often condemned twice, the HIV affected are hopeful the HIV AIDS Bill will do what awareness campaigns have failed to. In the final stages of approval - the bill stipulates that a person with HIV cannot be sacked or denied employment except with a written assessment of an independent healthcare provider that the afflicted person indeed poses risks of transmission.