More than 40 years after the AIDS epidemic began, HIV-related stigma and discrimination persist with nearly four out of ten people saying that people living with HIV should not be allowed to work directly with those who do not have HIV.
In a new report — the ILO Global HIV Discrimination in the World of Work Survey — the ILO says that as many as six in ten people wanted mandatory HIV testing before people are allowed to work.
The AIDS study highlights how stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes are fuelled by a lack of knowledge on HIV transmission. It reveals that only one in two people knew HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a bathroom and only one in four people answered questions about how HIV is transmitted. The ILO states that stigma and discrimination of AIDS denied people living with, affected by or at risk of HIV access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Moreover, discriminatory practices by employers, co-workers, clients and customers in workplace further exacerbate their difficulties in finding or keeping a job.
The AIDS report states that Middle East and North Africa as well as Asia and the Pacific are the two regions with the lowest percentage of respondents who say people living with HIV should be allowed to work directly with others who do not have HIV. About 40.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific and 42 per cent in Middle East and North Africa say people living with HIV should be allowed to work directly with people who do not have HIV.
Meanwhile, people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (62.9 per cent), Western and Central Africa (71.1 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (75.4 per cent) say people living with HIV should be allowed to work directly with others who do not have HIV. This is the same in Western and Central Europe and North America (818 per cent) and Eastern and Southern Africa (89.9 per cent).
Overall 68 per cent of those with tertiary education opined that people living with HIV should be allowed to work in direct contact with others who do not have HIV. The same was shared by 55.4 per cent of those with a secondary education and 39.9 per cent of those with a primary education. The report mentions that people having better understanding of how HIV is transmitted are generally more likely to agree that people living with HIV should be allowed to work directly with others who do not have HIV.
In the report on AIDS, the ILO states that most of the people are ignorant about HIV transmission. It states that people have less knowledge about the link between spreading of HIV through kissing and sharing a bathroom. However, most of the people are accurate that unprotected sex leads to HIV. It said that only 39.7 per cent of respondents said correctly that HIV cannot be transmitted through kissing. About 51.9 per cent said correctly that HIV can be transmitted through sharing a bathroom. In Eastern and Southern, 51 per cent of respondents answered all questions correctly. In the Middle East and North Africa, the figure was 24.2 per cent. It was 16 per cent in Asia and the Pacific.
MANDATORY HIV TESTING BEFORE WORK
In Eastern and Southern Africa, 50,6 per cent of respondents support mandatory HIV testing. The region with the least support for mandatory HIV testing for employment is Western and Central Europe and North America, where just under a quarter of respondents (23.4 per cent) supported it. Women and men are about equally as likely to believe there should be mandatory HIV testing before people are allowed to work. Educational attainment again appears to influence attitudes to mandatory HIV testing for employment. About 47.5 per cent of respondents with a tertiary education support mandatory HIV testing, compared with 65.6 per cent of those who have only primary education, the report said.
Governments, in collaboration with employers’ and workers’ organizations and other relevant partners should
- prioritize efforts to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination
- should engage with networks of people living with HIV to promote HIV programmes in the workplace.
- strengthen programmes to enhance equal access to education,
- support the implementation of HIV programmes that increase workers knowledge of HIV transmission and dispel myths and misconceptions about how HIV con or cannot be transmitted in the workplace.
- promote the benefits of HIV treatment, including suppression of viral loads, significant reduction in the likelihood of transmitting HIV to others, and ability to live a healthy life and work productively
- work towards the abolition of all mandatory HIV testing laws and policies for the purposes of employment.
- repeal laws that explicitly criminalize HIV transmission, require disclosure of HIV status, criminalize same-sex relationships and enforce laws that enable effective non-discriminatory behaviour in the workplace and beyond
- ratify and implement the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No.190) and the accompanying Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019 (No. 91)
- strengthen access to justice of people living with HIV, by supporting community based and community-led legal aid service providers.
- commit towards developing inclusive social protection programmes enhance coverage, adequacy and comprehensiveness for all, including people living with, affected by and at risk of HIV
- build the capacities of labour administrations and labour inspectors to monitor and assess the implementation of workplace policies to prevent HIV-related discrimination as part of broader workplace health and wellness programmes
- support action-oriented research to deepen understanding of the causes of unfair and discriminatory labour practices based on real or perceived HIV status, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, origin or other characteristics