A Referencer on AIDS for HR Managers

It was in mid 80s that an employee died who was employed in the factory where I worked. There was a hush-hush talk that he died of AIDS. Soon I saw three more dying. These incidents were eye opener, I realized for the first time how close the AIDS danger was.

I met a manager of a hospital in Pune a few years later. He said that their diagnostic centre was discovering HIV positive cases with increasingly alarming frequency. All this comes to my mind because I recently read Kavita Mahajan’s ‘Bhinna’ [Marathi] which is all about AIDS. Reportedly it is a best seller and very deservingly so.

One must read it to realize what havoc AIDS can play with employees’ rights. Discrimination begins the moment people come to know that a person is HIV positive. Stigmatisation is inescapable for HIV positive person. Women face it severely at home too, worse than men. Fortunately law is developed to protect them but whether it takes effect is another story.

ILO reports ‘AIDS is concentrated among adults of working age: of the 40 million people estimated to be infected today, 80% are adults and at least 26 million are workers in their productive prime (15-49 years). The ILO estimates that the labour force in over 30 countries will be between 10 and 35% smaller by 2020 than it would have been without AIDS. Employers are losing skilled, experienced workers. Recruitment and retraining costs are soaring at the same time as insurance payments and health benefits.’

HR Managers can play a big role in developing a policy on AIDS for their organisation. I am providing links to some websites and documents with the hope that it will help them.
1. ILO’s HIV AIDS Code of Practice is an excellent document for preparing the policy. It identifies Key Principles: Recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue, Non-discrimination, Gender Equality, Healthy work environment, Social Dialogue, Screening for the purpose of exclusion from employment, Confidentiality, Continuation of employment relationship, Prevention, Care and Support. Appendix 1 gives information about ‘Basic facts about the epidemic and its implications,’ Appendix 2 gives information about ‘Infection control in the workplace’ and Appendix 3 is about ‘A checklist for planning and implementing a workplace policy on HIV/AIDS.’
2. ILO has also published Using the ILO Code of Practice and training manual – Guidelines for Employers; and a similar document for Trade Unions.
3. Both can be freely downloaded. Here is the page [Link]
4. It is important to know the Indian case law on the subject. In the case MX Vs ZY AIR1997Bom406, the High Court stated that “no person could be deprived of his or her livelihood (employment) except by procedure established by law and that the procedure must be just, fair and reasonable. It held that:(a) If a person is fit to perform his job functions;(b) is otherwise qualified and(c) does not pose a substantial risk to fellow workers; A government/ public sector employer cannot deny him employment because he is HIV +ve.(d) Each determination of whether a person is rendered incapable of performing the job must be made on the facts of the case by conducting an individual enquiry taking into account the state of medical knowledge at the time.”
5. The Lawyers Collective website provides a gist of cases, both Indian as well as International. Lawyers Collective website is worth exploring for it provides excellent information at no cost.The judgements have been grouped under the following heads:Access to medicines- patents, Blood Safety, Confidentiality, Discrimination, Public health, Public Interest Litigation, Quacks.
6. Here is the [Link] for Case law on that website.
7. The Indian Government came out with a draft bill, which is the good work done by Lawyers Collective. But so far it has not been enacted. The patients have protested. To quote India eNews: ‘According to Raman Chawla of the Lawyers Collective which has been fighting for the passage of the HIV/AIDS bill, the 2006 version of the bill was prepared by the health ministry and sent to ministry of law and justice for vetting. However, a much diluted version of the bill was sent back by the law ministry in 2007. Protests followed later and then the law ministry again sent a draft of the bill – almost like the last one,’ Chawla said.

Pradip Dutta, a member of the Delhi Network of Positive People, said that while there are 38 provisions which they are demanding to be reinstated in the bill, one of the major demands is emergency services for an HIV patient.
8. Another news report of Oct 22, 2009 says ‘India’s Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily said he will discuss the latest draft of the HIV-AIDS Bill with the Health Ministry which, according to patients and civil society, has “key provisions” missing.
9. An expert is saying that AIDS in Russia is out of control! Robin Gorna, head of the International Aids Society, urged Russia to do much more to prevent the spread of HIV among an estimated two million drug users. Ms Gorna was speaking ahead of a major international conference on Aids which is taking place in Moscow. It is believed there are now at least a million people infected with HIV in Russia. This represents a dramatic increase over the past decade. The vast majority are people under the age of 30. Most were infected because they share needles for injecting heroin.’ This is a BBC report [Link]

I hope this referencer will be useful to HR Managers. Do let me know what you think.