Key Stakeholders discuss HIV/AIDS issues in the workplace

Ms. Supersad enjoying the interview

Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 20, 2011 (SKNIS): HIV/AIDS Testing as an employment requirement, stimulated lively discussion at a recent meeting attended by Madhuri Supersad, HIV/AIDS Specialist in the Regional Office of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Ms. Supersad, whose ILO Office is responsible for the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean, visited the Federation to assist in the formulation of a policy pertaining to HIV/AIDS in the workplace. In speaking with the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service, she revealed that one’s HIV status should not be the major health consideration when it comes to employment.

“If somebody has HIV it does not mean that they are medically unfit for employment,” Supersad stressed. “All the Doctor needs to tell the employer is whether this candidate is fit or unfit for employment.”

She explained that HIV/AIDS is one of four components of the Decent Work Country Programme which also includes Labour Legislation, the Development of a Labour Market Information System for the Federation, and the Enhancement of Social Dialogue among Tripartite Constituents representing workers, employers and government representatives.

As it relates to HIV/AIDS, Specialist Supersad said that the identified Areas of Action are Development of Programmes for the Workplace, the Ammendment of the Protection of Employment Act to incorporate issues related to HIV/AIDS and to Sensitize the Constituents in St. Kitts and Nevis to a new Human Rights Instrument that Focuses on HIV/AIDS – referred to as Recommendation 200.

The development of policy was seen as a precursor to legislation.

“I believe it was on the drawing board since 2007,” Specialist Supersad noted. “The workers representative Mr. Tak said the meeting reinvigorated the interest in having a response to HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Everybody was interested – the employers the workers and government representative including the representative from the National AIDS body, they were all interested in moving forward, in developing a National Draft Policy on HIV/AIDS.”

Ms. Supersad also emphasized that the occupational risk of transmission would also have to be included in the policy. This, it was felt would have to extend to education and training in basic universal precautions for all workers who come in contact with blood, open wounds or work with sharp implements. It could include persons working in health, sanitation and hospitality. Specialist Supersad noted that these instructions were important not just in terms of HIV, but also for all transmissible or communicable diseases.

With a sense of satisfaction, the ILO Representative was enthused that last year when there was a revision of occupational diseases, HIV had been added to the list.
“Recommendation 200 speaks to empowering women and not only focusing on women because when we talk about empowering them we need to get the men to change their behavior, so we need to have programmes in place that target men specifically,” Ms. Supersad outlined. “And it also speaks about sexual and reproductive health of both men and women and that’s an area where the workplace would really be an excellent place to provide education for both male and female workers.

Recommendation 200 also addresses the Rights of Migrant Workers as well as Persons from the Armed and Uniformed Services.

Ms. Supersad revealed that she will visit Antigua and Barbuda in the coming weeks to conduct similar exercises. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also in the drafting stage. Monstserrat and Anguilla have already drafted policy while Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, and Barbados have policies in place. The ILO Representative singled out Trinidad and Tobago noting that out of its policy exercise, the Republic was able to launch an HIV/AIDS Advisory and Sustainability Centre as a unit of the Ministry of Labour. The entity is dedicated to the implementation of the National Workplace Policy.

St. Kitts and Nevis is expected to have drafted a policy before the end of 2011.

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