JIS News

Organizations are being encouraged to voluntarily join the HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme ahead of the passage of the Occupational, Safety, and Health (OSH) Act.
This voluntary compliance programme (VCP) is one of the measures being implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to get organisations involved in the International Labour Organization (ILO)/US Department of Labour HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme.
Project Coordinator of ILO in Jamaica, Nasola Thompson, in an interview with JIS News, said that the Ministry decided to embark on such a programme because it recognizes the urgency of workplace safety and health concerns as they concern HIV/AIDS.
“What we are saying to employers is that this is coming your way. Let’s help you to become compliant. Let us give you as much assistance to respond to the issue of HIV/AIDS because it involves the health and welfare of your workers and will also impact your bottom line and we need to ensure that you remain profitable,” she says.
Enterprises that enroll in the voluntary compliance programme will receive guidance and support materials to assist them to develop and implement Occupational, Safety and Health (OSH) and HIV/AIDS programmes.
“We recognize that within the world of HIV/AIDS, peer-to-peer relationships are very important in terms of behaviour change as we are heavily influenced by our environment. So if we can change the environment then we can also begin to change the messages that are sent to the individual and how that individual interprets that message and consequently how the person behaves,” she says.
Organizations which enroll in VCPs will be assessed over a four-month period, after which they will be issued with an HIV/AIDS VCP certificate. This certificate will signify that the enterprise is cognizant of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue and values and supports its employees, their families and the country’s efforts to manage the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Mrs. Thompson informed that the major challenge with the programme is trying to move companies from a position of looking at HIV/AIDS programmes as an imposition to looking at it as an integral part of their strategic plan. “It is important that companies recognise that their biggest asset is their staff. If your staff is not performing at an optimal level, then you’re not performing, your company is not meeting its goals,” she said.
Programme Manager of ILO/US Department of Labour International HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme, Behrouz Shahandeh pointed out that the objective of the programme is to develop a policy framework that addresses the issue of discrimination at the workplace.
“The main thing is to bring the information to the attention of CEOs and trade unions so that we can take earlier actions. We want to inform them of the problem and then help them to develop the right policies and programmes,” he says.
He goes on to explain that, “nine out of ten persons who are positive will get up and go to work, so because ILO is concerned with workers around the world.”
Mr. Shahandeh adds that “HIV/AIDS has had a huge impact on the workplace so we would like to help people to protect themselves so they don’t become infected. For those who are already infected, we want them to be given help so they can continue to work. With that support they can have a productive life of 20 -30 years.”
As he puts it, “In the long run every enterprise is as good as the people they have and if you have skilled people you want to protect them and that should have an impact on your productivity and bottom line.”
The ILO/US Department of Labour HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme in Jamaica has been in operation since 2004.

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