The Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security in collaboration with the National Tripartite Committee officially launched its National HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy Programme yesterday at the Pegasus Hotel.
The focus of this initiative is to reduce HIV and AIDS risk behaviours among employees, in addition to removing employment and related discrimination.
The workplace policy on HIV/AIDS is to be adopted, as the minimum standards that must be implemented by all employers, be they trade unions and employee representatives or government.
The policy concerns prevention measures for occupational safety and health, protection and support for employees already living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and use of the workplace as a forum to disseminate information and awareness on HIV/AIDS.
The objectives of this policy are to protect Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) from discrimination and unfair judgment at their workplace, to manage and prevent HIV and AIDS in the world of work, to promote information, education, communication, and general awareness on HIV and AIDS, to ensure universal infection control procedures, to detail employer/employee responsibilities, to promote cooperation among Government, employers, trade unions, and workers and to ensure compliance with statutory and constitutional provisions.
These objectives were lauded by US Ambassador to Guyana, John Jones, who noted that they are very ‘lofty’, but nevertheless, commended the Government’s initiative.
Ambassador Jones explained that the HIV AIDS infection rate in the Caribbean is the second highest in the world
“So when you embark on this kind of programme, you are doing it for the preservation of your nation,” the Ambassador said.
He noted that while the government is aggressive in dealing with the stigma and discrimination, more emphasis needs to be placed on making people aware of how dangerous HIV is.
Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy noted that in the middle 1990s, the country was faced with a calamity of 1,000 Guyanese dying of HIV per year.
“HIV was not only a disease, but it was a social phenomenon that was eroding the quality of life in our country and it was impacting on the social and economic development of our country,” Minister Ramsammy said.
He explained that at the end of 2008, the life expectancy rate in Guyana was 70, while women have up to the age of 71 to live.
“This is a success story and it is because less than 200 people are dying from AIDS. The workplace programme is not about us getting together and launching a paper….the programme is about the fact that we can reduce the number of people with HIV and we can ensure that those fewer numbers with HIV can get life sustaining support and treatment.”
Also addressing the launching was President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Gillian Burton, who said that the GTUC is consistent in its advocacy for such a workplace policy.
According to Burton, it is important that the workers of the country are protected at all cost.
Additionally, Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir revealed that over the course of approximately five years, US$3 million has been spent for workplace policy interventions.
He added that in the labour occupational health and safety department, the Ministry is achieving greater numbers of inspections as some 3,025 inspections were done in 2008, while it is hoped that 4000 would be completed for this year. (Fareeza Haniff).
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