NAPS tackles stigma against people with HIV in updated Workplace Policy

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As part of efforts to renew the policies that promote fair and just responses to HIV- positive employees, the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) is engaging workplaces.

The consultations to redirect focus on how persons are treated at workplaces started on Thursday at the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown with representatives from several agencies, including the Ministries of Labour and Health and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For many years, persons living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been discriminated against, especially for employment, hence the HIV workplace policy launched in 2009, protects HIV-positive employees against discrimination, victimisation, or harassment. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has an updated policy framework that NAPS will use for these consultations.

Dr. Tariq Jagnarine, the programme manager said the consultations will be held among private and public sector workplaces that will be engaged by the Ministry of Labour.

Attendees at the opening ceremony of the consultations (Photo: DPI/ June 22, 2023)

“These policies should address issues such as confidentiality, non-discrimination, access to healthcare, and reasonable accommodations. They must be developed through inclusive and participatory processes, involving workers, employers, trade unions, and civil society organizations,” the Programme Manager said.

Dr. Jagnarine said the inclusivity demonstrates a commitment to equality and social justice. By incorporating updated guidelines from the ILO, the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 which outlines a roadmap for ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, is achievable.

As such, the ministry is tasked with ensuring that workplaces either have policies in place or are open to updated policies.

During the consultations which are expected to be completed by September, employers will be informed of the updated policies and stakeholders will get to make recommendations, and share concerns; in the end, the report will be taken to the Ministry of Labour.

Gwenette King, the Safety and Risk Manager at the Labour Ministry, said the occupational health and safety department conducts multiple checks to ensure workplaces are compliant with these policies.

NAPS is hosting consultations to review the workplace policy response to HIV/AIDS (Photo: DPI/ June 22, 2023)

While complaints from workers about discriminatory practices by employers were not reported, she noted that this engagement proves there is a need for focus to be placed on the workplace to address issues employees may have.

“The occupational health and safety department has not received any complaints from employees, while this is so, it does not mean that such practices are not happening and there may be a need or is a need to intensify our efforts,” King said.

This is important because the workplace must highlight health-related issues and cater to the needs of its employees, Dr Jagnarine said, adding that workplaces should offer support to HIV-positive employees and encourage voluntary testing.

Notably, these engagements will also address health issues employees face such as mental health, Chronic diseases etc.

“Our efforts should not be limited to the workplace policy alone but should extend to promoting a culture of overall wellness and resilience.

“This means addressing mental healthy promoting work-life balance, and providing comprehensive healthcare benefits to employees and their families,” Dr. Jagnarine said.

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