Keeping employees medical files and personal information confidential, and ensuring that hiring and promotions are based on experience, qualifications and fitness to work rather than a person’s HIV status are among Government’s revised national workplace policy on HIV and Aids.
This is according to Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus who said that the benefits of the implementation of workplace policies and programmes on HIV/Aids are numerous. The workplace is defined as "any place in which workers perform their activities."
Delivering the main address today at the launch of the new policy at the Radisson Hotel, Port of Spain, Baptiste-Primus said, the policies promote a non-discriminatory environment, provide HIV prevention education to all workers with the aim of reducing risks of infection.
Among those present at the launch were Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy.
While for many, HIV is a health issue, Baptiste-Primus said, “it is a social issue and a workplace issue, therefore a labour issue.”
Copies of the revised policy were presented to representatives of a number of organisations who were present.
Together with the launch of the policy was the renaming of the National HIV/Aids Workplace Advocacy and Sustainability Centre known as the HASC, to the new official name, “HIV Workplace Advocacy Unit.”
“This new name closely identifies with the core remit of the unit, which is to advocate for the development of workplace policies and programmes throughout all workplaces in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
Having launched the new policy and renaming the unit, Baptiste-Primus said, the next step is to get an awareness campaign going within the next two months. This campaign will include meeting with employers to assist them in developing their work place policies.
The objectives of the revised policy, Baptiste-Primus said, “must also include overall workplace policies and programmes to reduce the impact of HIV and Aids on the workplace ultimately benefitting both employees and employers.”
The implementation of the policy, she said, can directly assist Trinidad and Tobago in its thrust to meet the UNAIDS “90- 90- 90 targets” aimed at reducing the HIV epidemic by 2020.
The 90-90-90 targets 90 percent of the global community to become aware of their HIV status, 90 percent of people who know their status must be receiving treatment, and 90 percent on HIV treatment would have a suppressed viral load so that their immune system remains strong and they are no longer infectious.
The revised policy, Baptiste-Primus said, is also guided by the key principles of the International Labour Organisation’s Code of Practice on HIV/Aids and the World of Work and the ILO Recommendation Concerning HIV and Aids and the World of Work, 2010. The ILO addresses HIV and Aids as a workplace issue and treats with non-discrimination, gender equality, healthy work environment, social dialogue, no screening for purposes of employment, confidentiality, continuing employment, prevention, care and support.
With a national labour force population of about 600,000 people, Baptiste-Primus said, the importance of including the workplace in TT’s HIV and Aids response is of utmost importance in order to expand HIV prevention efforts and reduce national infection rates.
The new policy according to acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development Natalie Willis was two years in the making and involved some 75 organisations and consultations held in both Trinidad and Tobago. The first policy was adopted in 2008.