Govt urges end to HIV testing at workplaces

Govt urges end to HIV testing at workplaces

The Labour Ministry is asking businesses to avoid testing job seekers for HIV/Aids as a part of its bid to end discriminatory practices in the workplace, according to the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DPLW).

The department said that up to 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.

In response to the figures, Labour Minister, Suchart Chomklin on Tuesday issued a ministerial announcement, urging employers to eliminate discriminatory practices against job-seekers who have been diagnosed with Aids.

According to the Foundation for Aids Rights (FAR), based on figures released by the Department of Disease Control, there are about 470,000 individuals living with HIV/Aids in Thailand.

Individuals with HIV/Aids have equal rights to employment under Thai laws, and the DLPW is duty-bound to support them by ensuring workplaces in the nation respect their rights. 

DLPW director-general, Apinya Sujittanan, said the announcement contains three directives, saying it urges employers to treat job applicants fairly regardless of their HIV/Aids status, educate employees about the virus and how to prevent transmission, and offer assistance to employees with HIV/Aids to ensure they can access the necessary medical care through the government's social security programme.

"There has been tremendous advances in medical technology for HIV/Aids patients over the past several years," he said. "If treated properly, employees [with HIV/Aids] can work alongside healthy employees without any problem."

The Labour Minister's announcement coincided with the World Aids Day, which fell on Monday. The underlying message of this year's campaign is to ensure HIV/Aids sufferers to can live in society without being discriminated against, said Mr Apinya. 

FAR director, Supattra Nakapew, said about 85% of HIV/Aids patients in Thailand have access to medical treatments worth three billion baht each year.

The rest, however, either have no access to treatment or are reluctant to access treatment.

Ms Supattra said many of those who chose not to seek treatment include drug users, some of which mistakenly believe that they need to be able to kick the habit first before accessing HIV/Aids treatment.

"Stateless people and migrant workers are also often reluctant to seek treatment," she said.

Ms Supattra stressed that individuals with HIV/Aids who regularly take their prescribed anti-retroviral medication and strives to remain fit are able to work as efficiently as anyone.

That said, she continued, FAR has received numerous complaints about workplace discrimination, including by an individual who claimed that he was denied a job in the police force due to his HIV+ status. 

The complainant has also raised the issue with the National Human Rights commission accusing the police force of discrimination. The Royal Thai Police office is investigating the matter, according to the FAR.

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