It is important for every institution to have a policy that addresses various issues surrounding the institution. Among such policy is the HIV/AIDS policy. According to Lamptey, et al (2006), workplace policy provides the framework for action to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and manage its impact. This paper attempts to present a drawn up HIV/AIDS policy at workplace.
“The format of the HIV/AIDS policy at workplace should contain a general statement, policy framework, specific provisions and implementation and monitoring provisions,” states the United Nations (2004).
Furthermore, the policy should include provisions in the following areas: 1) The protection of the rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS 2) Prevention through information, education and training and 3) Care and support for workers and their families (Carl, 2006).
Our institution recognises the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact on the workplace. The Company supports national efforts to reduce the spread of infection and minimize the impact of the disease.
POLICY FRAMEWORK AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES
Our institution does not discriminate or tolerate discrimination against employees or job applicants on any grounds, including HIV status. While the institution recognises that there are circumstances unique to HIV infection, this policy rests on the principle that HIV infection and AIDS should be treated like any other serious condition or illness that may affect employees. It takes into account the fact that employees with HIV may live full and active lives for a number of years. The institution’s commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for all employees is based on the recognition that HIV is not transmitted by casual contact.
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3. SPECIFIC PROVISIONS
1) Stigma, discrimination and rights
No rights – from confidentiality to access to benefits – should be affected by an individual’s HIV status, real or suspected. Stigma and discrimination compromise employee welfare and a safe and healthy work environment. They also undermine HIV prevention efforts, which depend on an atmosphere of openness, trust and respect for basic rights UN Population Division (2004).
Therefore in this institution;
1. Rights of employees who are HIV-p positive. HIV-positive employees will be protected against discrimination, victimisation or harassment. Normal company disciplinary and grievance procedures shall apply equally to all employees, as will the provision of information and education about HIV and AIDS.
2. Employment opportunities and termination of employment. No employee should suffer adverse consequences, whether dismissal or denial of appropriate alternative employment opportunities, merely on the basis of HIV infection. [A collective agreement could spell out the grounds for dismissal].
3. Testing. This company rejects HIV testing as a prerequisite for recruitment, access to training or promotion. However, the company promotes and facilitates access to voluntary confidential testing with counselling (VCT) for all employees.
4. Epidemiological testing. Testing programmes for epidemiological purposes will be subject to appropriate consultation with recognised employee representatives and will be subject to independent and objective evaluation and scrutiny. The results of epidemiological studies will not be used as a basis for discriminating against any class of employee in the workplace. All testing will comply with accepted international standards on pre-and post-test counselling, informed consent, confidentiality and support.
5. Confidentiality. The Company recognises the sensitive issues that surround HIV/AIDS and undertakes to handle matters in a discreet and private manner. Where an employee with HIV has revealed his or her status to management, the Company will keep the identity of such person confidential. However in line with the Company philosophy on the virus, the employee will be encouraged to be open about his or her HIV status.
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2) Awareness-raising and education
In the absence of a vaccine or cure, information and education are vital components of an AIDS prevention programme. Because the spread of the disease can be limited by informed and responsible behaviour, practical measures such as condom distribution are also important means of supporting behaviour change within the workplace community. In cognisance of this therefore, this institution shall observe the following issues.
1. Appropriate awareness and education programmes will be conducted to inform employees about AIDS and HIV which will enable them to protect themselves and others against infection by HIV. Some of these will include the families of employees and the local community.
2. The company recognises the importance of involving employees and their representatives in the planning and implementation of awareness, education and counselling programmes, especially as peer educators and counsellors.
3. Practical measures to support behaviour change and risk management will include the treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and TB [or – where impossible – referral to STI and TB treatment services in the community], sterile needle and syringe exchange programmes [if relevant to the local situation], and the distribution of male and female condoms.
4. Training shall be arranged for key staff including managers, supervisors, and personnel officers; union representatives; trainers of trainers (both male and female); peer educators; and occupational safety and health officers.
5. Reasonable time off will be given for participation in education and training.
3) Care and support for workers and their families
It is in the interest of both enterprise and employees if infected individuals are assisted to remain at work as long as possible. In cognisance of this therefore, this institution shall observe the following provisions.
1. The promotion of employees’ well-b being. The Company will treat employees who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS with empathy and care. The Company will provide all reasonable assistance which may include counselling, time off, sick leave, family responsibility leave, and information regarding the virus and its effect.
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2. Work performance and reasonable accommodation. It is the policy of the Company to respond to the changing health status of employees by making reasonable accommodation in the workplace for those infected with HIV. Employees may continue to work as long as they are able to perform their duties safely and in accordance with accepted performance standards. If an employee with AIDS is unable to perform his or her tasks adequately, the manager or supervisor must resolve the problem according to the company’s normal procedure on poor performance/ ill health.
3. Benefits. Employees living with HIV/AIDS will be treated no less favourably than staff with any other serious illness/condition in terms of statutory and company benefits, workplace compensation, where appropriate, and other available services.
4. Healthcare: [this paragraph will need to be amended according to the size of the company and resources available for medical care].
i) The occupational health service will offer the broadest range of services to prevent and manage HIV/AIDS, including the provision of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), treatment for relief of HIV-related symptoms and for opportunistic infections (especially TB), reproductive and sexual health services, and advice on healthy living including nutritional counselling and stress reduction. The dependents of employees will also be eligible for medical treatment.
ii) Appropriate support and counselling services will be made available to employees.
4. IMPLEMENTATION AND MONITORING
1. This institution has established an HIV/AIDS committee [or responsible officer, in a smaller workplace] to coordinate and implement the HIV/AIDS policy and programme. The committee consists of employees representing all constituents of the company, including general management. The committee responsible officer will report regularly to the executive board.
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2. In order to plan and evaluate its HIV/AIDS policy and programme effectively, the company will undertake a survey to establish baseline data and regular risk and impact assessment studies. The studies will include knowledge, attitudes and behaviour/ practices (KAB/P).
Studies will be carried out in consultation and with the consent of employees and their representatives, and in conditions of complete confidentiality.
3. This policy, and related information on HIV and AIDS, will be communicated to all the company employees and the wider public using the full range of communication methods available to the company and its network of contacts.
4. This policy will be reviewed annually and revised as necessary in the light of changing conditions and the findings of surveys/studies conducted.
UNAIDS, (2006) Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic (Geneva: UNAIDS, 2006).
New estimates of HIV prevalence
Carl H, (2006), World Population Data Sheet: Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.
UN Population Division (2004), World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. New York: UN.
United Nations (2004), The Impact of AIDS: New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division,
UNAIDS, (2006), Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic: New York: UN.
Lamptey, B., Johnson, A. and Khan, H. (2006), “The Global Challenge of HIV and AIDS:” Los Angeles, Ackno.