Stop Aids tests in workplace

Stop Aids tests in workplace

Thailand has joined global campaigners in marking World Aids Day this week with encouraging news: new cases are on a steady decline.

According to the Foundation for Aids Rights (FAR), about 470,000 people are living with HIV/Aids in Thailand. Of the total, about 77,500 are in Bangkok and 1,190 are new cases. The number has declined significantly during the past decades since the country's first case in 1984.

A swath of stringent health measures, including the development of anti-retroviral 600-milligramme Efavirenz tablets by the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation and improved medical access for patients are linked to the tremendous decline in the number of people living with HIV/Aids, while awareness-raising campaigns have helped curb new infections.

Despite the remarkable success, challenges remain. People living with Aids have complained about social stigma and discrimination.

While studies show that 30% of people living with HIV/Aids have reported experiencing discrimination by employers due to their status, both during the recruitment process and while being employed, jobseekers have been hit very hard, especially if they are required to have Aids tests as part of the job application process. The Labour Ministry this week appealed to businesses to stop HIV/Aids testing, which is considered a discriminatory practice in the workplace that must be eliminated.

Due to advances in medical technology, HIV/Aids is no longer a major health threat and the fatality rate is declining. Anti-retroviral medication, in particular, has helped ensure improved quality of life for people living with HIV/Aids.

The Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) has three demands of employers: that they treat job applicants fairly, regardless of their HIV/Aids status; that they educate employees about the virus and how to prevent transmission; and that they offer help to infected employees to ensure they can access the medications they need through the government's social security programme.

The DLPW's pledge to fight against discrimination this week coincided with World Aids Day on Dec 1. The underlying message of this year's campaign was to ensure HIV/Aids sufferers can live in society without suffering discrimination.

Stigmatisation has been addressed in the national plan to tackle HIV/Aids, developed by the Thai Health Foundation, a key agency in HIV/Aids control. The non-profit agency has worked with partners pushing for a national strategy and work plan against the disease during 2017-2030. In addition to eliminating discrimination, it has set solid, tangible goals: curbing new infection cases to no more than 1,000 a year and curbing HIV fatalities to no more than 4,000 a year.

The state agencies deserve praise for recognising this crucial issue. Yet petitioning businesses is definitely not enough. People living with HIV/Aids have equal employment rights under Thai law and the DLPW is duty-bound to support them by ensuring workplaces respect these. Businesses need to be reminded that imposing HIV/Aids testing for job applicants is a breach of their rights. Such a practice must not be tolerated.

State agencies, particularly FAR, are pushing for a bill to eliminate discrimination. Such a legal framework, once approved by parliament, will be instrumental in stopping workplace discrimination. The state must do whatever it can to help push for the law so Aids-related discrimination will become a thing of the past.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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