Pressure on House to reject HIV pretesting

PARLIAMENTARIANS REVIEWING the Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS are being encouraged not to allow organisations to pretest potential employees for HIV.

“We believe that pre-employment screening is unnecessary and could lead to discrimination,” a coalition of HIV support groups has said.

The umbrella body comprises the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and the Latin America and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service.

The Government is pushing for the introduction of the Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS by year end. A joint select committee of Parliament has been set up to examine the Green Paper and make a report to the House of Representatives.

Right of the employer

Last week, Minister of Water and Housing Horace Chang and Opposition Senator Sandrea Falconer said it was the right of the employer to pretest recruits for HIV/AIDS.

“If an employer wishes to pretest a potential employee for medical problems – AIDS, hypertension, diabetes – it’s their right to do so, they are employing them,” Chang said.

Falconer echoed Chang’s sentiments but noted that Parliament, in determining law, must ensure there is no discrimination against employees.

Labour code breaches

But the HIV support groups say allowing employers to pretest for HIV/AIDS is a contravention of the International Labour Organisation Code of Practice on HIV and the World of Work/ UNAIDS guidelines.

“We wish to point out that studies done by the Global Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS have revealed that pre-employment testing usually fails to achieve the desired results of significantly reducing HIV prevalence in a workforce and doesn’t lead to any reduction in risk-taking behaviours to reduce HIV infection rates once employed,” the HIV support groups said.

The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition is also against pretesting.

“This move is a clear violation of the human rights of indivi-duals,” the coalition said.

“Testing … does not in any way inform the personal sexual practices by persons living with HIV, neither does it reduce exposure of co-workers to sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV.”

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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