“The need for a National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS in all workspaces is of increasing importance given the significant presence of the disease in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region and its increasing risk to our workforce in their most productive years.”

So says, Chief Executive Officer of the ECA, Joycelyn Francois-Opadeyi as she addressed a gathering of its member companies at a recent sensitisation session hosted by the ECA in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development (MLSED) through the National HIV/AIDS Workplace Advocacy and Sustainability Centre (HASC). Figures from the HASC reveal that the epidemic is significantly concentrated in the 15-49 age group.

The sensitisation session, which served as a key component of the ECA’s existing MOU with the MLSED, examined not only the social and economic impact of this epidemic but also demonstrated the need for employers to take proactive steps to respond to it. The HASC team outlined its case for a national workplace policy to define the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees in educating stakeholders, encouraging equity and fairness by avoiding needless discrimination and ultimately, improving business productivity, performance and the bottom line.

“As the authoritative body responsible for the implementation of the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS throughout Trinidad and Tobago, explained Heather Rodney, HASC Assistant Manager, “the HASC advocates for the development and implementation of an HIV and AIDS workplace policy and programmes for all workspaces, as it provides the framework for action by employers and employees to ensure that persons infected and affected by HIV are not subjected to HIV-related stigma and discrimination”. Rodney also stressed that the HIV/AIDS status of persons should not serve as an impediment in allowing them to contribute productively to the world of work, once they are fit to do so.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has developed extensive guidelines through its Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work and as sensitisation efforts continue, the ECA, together with the HASC, will ensure that all established standards and best practice guidelines will be considered in the development of HIV workplace policies for ECA’s members. In this regard, the ECA calls on all employers to support the implementation of this policy, especially against a current reality of increasing cost, and decreasing revenue and productivity in an uncertain national and global economic landscape.

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