HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy Tabled in the Senate

The White Paper on the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS was tabled in the Senate on Friday, February 8.

The policy is a framework for action by the Government, employers and workers to deal effectively with HIV/AIDS in places of employment. It is based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) principles on HIV/AIDS in the workplace.

It takes into consideration, the effects of HIV and AIDS on the most productive segment of the workforce, which comprise persons 15 to 49 years old, and acknowledges that effective prevention and management of the epidemic in and through the workplace, will benefit all national stakeholders.

According to the White Paper, HIV testing  can be carried out on a voluntary basis with appropriate pre-test and post-test counselling.

“There is no health reason for mandatory testing and screening for employment purposes. HIV testing should be carried out on a voluntary basis with pre-test and post-test counselling as recommended by international, regional and national governing bodies in accordance with guidelines on HIV testing provided by the World Health Organization (WHO),” the document said.

It further stated that HIV testing should not be required as condition of eligibility for any relevant social security or occupational schemes, or any health insurance policy.

“In the event that a worker wishes to get his or her HIV status verified through testing, all necessary facilities should be given to that person and results should be kept strictly confidential. Such results should be given out to the person and with his or her consent, to family members,” the White Paper noted.

It added that the attending physician, with proper counselling, should invariably disclose the HIV status to the spouse or sexual partner of the person.

However, the infected person should be encouraged to share this information with the family in order to get appropriate home-based care and emotional support from family members.

The document also recommended that employers should ensure that appropriate systems, including procedures, are in place that can be accessed by workers and their representatives in cases of stigma and discrimination.

“These shall include, but are not limited to personnel policies such as grievance procedures, reasonable accommodation and medical benefits for people living with HIV and AIDS,” the White Paper said.

Parliament’s approval of the White Paper on the National Workplace Policy on HIIV/AIDS is a necessary precursor to the establishment of an enforcement mechanism to protect the rights at work of persons infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

A total of 15,289 Jamaicans were reported with AIDS between January 1982 and December 2010 representing a male/female ratio of 1.3:1. About 32,000 men and women or 1.7 per cent of the population, are estimated to be living with HIV.

It is envisioned that the principles enunciated in the policy will be given legislative expression by the soon to be enacted Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Technical and financial support for the development of the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS was provided through the National HIV/STI Programme (NHP) under the work plan of the Government of Jamaica/International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (GoJ/IBRD) developed for the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.