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Saturday, April 8, 2017

SC comes to the rescue of an HIV+ veteran- grants him Disability Pension

In what may be quite a progressive decision by the Supreme Court, a soldier suffering from AIDS and Meningitis has been granted disability pension by the Supreme Court, which was earlier refused by the Army and then also the Armed Forces Tribunal.

HIV+ population continues to suffer stigma in our nation and the military population declared HIV+ faces another major issue, and that is the fact that such soldiers can be discharged from service on medical grounds- at times without pension in case the condition is declared “neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service”.

Though a harmonious interpretation of the rules would show that the condition needs to be declared attributable to service if the cause is unknown and can only be declared “not related to service” in case the reason is directly discernable such as contact with a commercial sex worker, more often than not, medical boards declare it ‘not related to service’ even if the reason remains unknown. Of course, it is well understood that there are plenty of ways how the virus can spread, and the individual may not even be at fault for his condition, but the stigma till date in our nation is such that personnel affected by the virus are left to fend for their own.

This decision is not just in line with the global effort to make AIDS less stigmatic but also protects the life and liberty of the individual by providing him and his family a means of a dignified life through disability pension and also ensuring medical treatment via the military medical establishment which is only permissible to pensioners as far as in-patient treatment is concerned.

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