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Long-awaited National policy on HIV/AIDS to be launched today

Monday, December 16, 2013    

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A National Policy on HIV and AIDS to be formally launched today by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS), will address, among other key issues, the hot button topic of HIV and AIDS within the workplace.

The launch ceremony will take place at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, commencing at 6:30 pm.

Director of the ministry's Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) unit, Robert Chung said the policy, which is currently in effect, is a regulation under the proposed Occupational, Safety and Health Act, which is being implemented by the MLSS to address health and safety concerns in the workplace.

The policy was formulated through tripartite discussion (government, employers and workers) to establish an appropriate framework to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace, guided by the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) 10-point Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS, Chung said.

"This Code deals specifically with HIV/AIDS in the world of work, and includes some key principles such as recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue, non-discrimination, gender equality, prevention, care and support, social dialogue, a healthy work environment, as well as screening and confidentiality," said Chung.

The OSH director noted that every workplace would be required to have the policy in place, and that it would be made available free of cost to both the private and public sectors islandwide.

"From the launch, we are expecting adherence as it relates to the requirements of the policy. What we are promoting is effective social inclusion, so there will be no room for stigma and discrimination. It not only prevents affected employees from being fired because they have HIV/AIDS, but it outlines how employers should treat persons living with HIV/AIDS within the workplace," he added.

Chung pointed out that currently, there was no law covering penalty for persons not adhering to the policy. However, the new OSH Act, that is to be tabled in Parliament by year end, would carry substantial penalties for persons found to be in breach of the Act.

"The message that we are trying to send to both employers and employees is that persons who are affected by HIV and AIDS, should not be discriminated against, because of their status," Chung said.

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