JIS News

The Ministry of Water and Housing has launched its HIV/AIDS workplace policy and programme, which, through a collaborative and culturally sensitive approach, is committed to reducing the incidence and impact of HIV and AIDS and creating a caring and supportive environment where persons infected or affected by the illnesses are treated with compassion.
Speaking at the launch held at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kingston on Wednesday (Nov. 26), Minister of State in the Ministry, Everald Warmington, said that the policy is critical in addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
He said that based on reported cases, it has been estimated that one in every 100 persons in Jamaica is affected by HIV. “The fact is that whether we want to acknowledge it or not, based on the figures, at some point in our personal or professional lives, chances are we have come in contact with someone who has HIV,” he pointed out.
This, he said, raises a number of complex issues and arguments in relation to the treatment of persons living with HIV at the workplace. At the forefront of these are the rights of individuals, especially their right to privacy. “The policy notes that under no circumstances should employees be obligated to disclose their HIV status and the presence of HIV does not justify termination of employment, demotion or discrimination in employment,” he disclosed.
“It further notes,” he continued, “that employees living with HIV/AIDS have the same rights and obligations as all staff and disclosure should be elective as in the case of lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and so on. In fact, there is no justification for HIV screening for exclusion from employment.”
Mr. Warmington pointed out that because HIV usually affects persons in their prime productive years, between the ages of 20 to 45, the impact on performance and productivity, and the employer’s bottom line, may be profound.
“Replacing an experienced person, who have had to leave their jobs because they are no longer physically able to perform, or has died from AIDS, is a costly exercise, particularly in the case of those with special skills and years of training,” he said.
“We all agree that HIV/AIDS eats away at our human capital, the foundation of our society. We all agree that the economic and social impacts are profound and far reaching. It is up to the Government as employers, as businesspersons, and as individuals, to show the way through education and prevention programmes that are guided by the HIV/AIDS workplace policy,” he said, while encouraging other agencies to develop similar policies.
The Ministry of Water and Housing’s workplace policy on HIV/AIDS uses the 10 International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles as its foundation. These are: the recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue; non-discrimination; gender equality; healthy work environment; social dialogue; no screening for exclusion; confidentiality; continuation of employment; prevention; and care and support.
The policy encourages openness and honesty at the workplace about HIV and AIDS and deals with the stigma and discrimination associated with the conditions.