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Tuesday 24 October 2017
News

Tolerance, respect and empathy for employees with HIV

Laquesha Bailey (NYLO Intern)

In 2017, the National AIDS Coordinating Committee facilitated a capacity-building workshop promoting advocacy and responsibility for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS and will continue to build on this says Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Webster-Roy spoke yesterday at the launch of The Revised National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS hosted at the Radisson Hotel. Among the works completed, the NACC has compiled a statistical analysis on HIV and AIDS for the years 2010-2015 and has been instrumental in the development of NGO policies. Referencing the accomplishments of the NACC, the Minister shared her department's plans for

the rest of the year.

In the coming months, Webster-Roy said, the NAAC aims to host community outreaches and site visits to key treatment and testing centers for the purpose of empowering and

inspiring empathy among the population, put the finishing touches on the National Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for HIV and AIDS and host a regional consultation regarding the National HIV and AIDS policy.

The policy, spearheaded by The Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, seeks to address the widespread discrimination faced by people suffering from HIV and AIDS within the working environment that often manifests itself in the form of wrongful termination or unwillingness to hire them in spite of their qualifications and physical capacity. According to Webster-Roy, the update of the policy "represents for all of Trinidad and Tobago that we are on the road to eliminating ill-informed practices" and aims to guide the standards of employers and employees to decrease stigma, impact and spread of the virus.

Webster-Roy emphasized the need for confidentiality in the workplace and proper empathy-invoking education, citing two instances of discrimination: one in which two women felt compelled to provide proof publicly on Facebook of their HIV-negative status in order to retain their positions as part of the country's workforce and another, in which a young man declined an important and lucrative position owing to the company's HIV testing policy.

Refuting the commonly used idiom "We fear what we do not know", Webster-Roy painted a hopeful picture of the policy's acceptance and implementation. She urged employers, employees and other important stakeholders in the workplace, to foster an environment of tolerance, respect, education and utmost confidentiality where individuals would be judged on their ability to do the job rather than their infection with HIV and AIDS.

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