Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
HIV pandemic has become one of the most critical workplace issues of our time. In addition to its devastating impact on working individuals as well as their families and dependents, HIV affects the world of work in many ways.
According to ILO on HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS is a major threat to the world of work. It is affecting the most productive segment of the labour force and reducing earnings. HIV/AIDS at work can also impose huge costs on enterprises in all sectors through declining productivity, increasing labour costs and loss of skills and experience. Not only that, stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS threaten fundamental rights at work, undermining opportunities for people to obtain decent work and sustainable employment.
There is no international labour Convention or Recommendation that specifically addresses the issue of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. There is, however, a large number of instruments that cover both protection against discrimination and prevention against infection that can be – and have been – used in this field, ILO stated.
Avert stated that while there is no cure yet for HIV, antiretroviral treatment can control the virus so people with HIV can live longer with healthy lives. That said, employees with HIV/AIDS in the workplace should be treated like other employees with serious illness/condition. This is necessary not only because it affects the workforce, but also because the workplace, being part of the local community, has a role to play in the wider struggle to limit the spread and effects of the epidemic.
Although HIV/AIDS can be treated, common belief says the other way. Many people believe that HIV is a deadly virus that can be transmitted to others easily. Owing to this false perception, individuals stay away and/or limit contact with the valetudinarian.
Such thing will only worsen the condition of the valetudinarian. Thus, the very first step for HR to help employees with HIV/AIDS is to improve employee awareness. Let your employees aware of how HIV is transmitted to hinder them from working or discriminating staff with HIV.
HIV can be found in blood, semen, rectal fluids, and vaginal secretions. It can enter the body through tiny cuts or sores on the skin, the lining of the vagina, penis, rectum, or mouth. ILO warned that there are some ways HIV can be passed on to other individuals.
Likewise, HIV can NOT be transmitted under normal workplace circumstances or by casual contact, such as shaking hands or sharing office equipment or tools. HIV can also NOT be transmitted by the following points.
Just like us, people living with HIV and AIDS want to continue to live and work to the fullest extent possible. If you are unsure of what to do when responding to a coworker living with HIV, the best advice is to maintain professionalism and respect. There are many ways to respond when learning a coworker is living with HIV and AIDS such as the following.
When you are still confused with the condition you encounter, especially about managing employees with HIV/AIDS, you can always consult other HR staff, health service in your area, legal advisor, or employee assistance program. Here are some useful contacts you can use to ask about and/or collaborate with to prevent HIV/AIDS in your company.