JIS News

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, has stressed the need for a working environment that protects the rights of workers regardless of their HIV status.
“Several workers have lost their jobs because they have been affected by HIV and several workers have moved from the workplace because other workers are said to be affected by HIV and there is an all-around discomfort for workers. It is said that a number of workers have not been employed because they either refuse to be tested or it is suspected that they may have HIV,” Minister Charles stated.
He was seeking approval for the joint select committee report on the National Workplace HIV/AIDS Policy yesterday (December 15) in the House of Representatives.
The policy is a framework for action by Government, employers and workers to deal effectively with HIV at the workplace. It proposes to guide workers and employers and assist in the development of a caring, supportive and responsible working environment that will protect all workers.
Mr. Charles noted that the workplace can play a critical role in preventing and controlling the spread of HIV, and significantly reducing stigma and discrimination. “Education and training are supporting tools for the attitudes and behaviour at the workplace,” he remarked.
The Labour Minister pointed out further that the most productive segment of the workforce (18 to 49 years old) is the most affected by HIV/AIDS as some 69 per cent of HIV cases were in the 20 to 49 age group.
Surveillance data from the National HIV/STI Programme shows a national prevalence of 1.5 per cent, with 12,063 persons reported with AIDS between January 1982 and June 2007.
Mr. Charles said that if not controlled, the spread of HIV will impose huge costs on companies through decline in productivity, loss of skills, and experience.
The Green Paper was developed based on labour standards set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which deals with codes of practices for HIV/AIDS.
The policy is expected to facilitate the development of a working environment in which the rights of workers infected and or affected by the epidemic are protected.
Among its many objectives are: strengthening the legal framework for HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue; reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination; and strengthening of the capacity of the organisations to provide care and support for persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
The National Workplace HIV/AIDS Policy was reviewed by a joint select committee of Parliament and then presented to the Cabinet, which approved it with some amendments.

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