HIV/AIDS EDUCATION PROGRAMME
The Ministry of Labour implemented its HIV/AIDS Education Programme in 2001 in accordance with the government's strategic plan to reduce the incidence and level of HIV/AIDS through the introduction of a comprehensive programme on the management, prevention and control of the disease.
The objectives of the programme are:
To promote a supportive ethical and human rights environment in the workplace for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
To reduce the vulnerability of the formal and informal sectors of the workforce through large-scale sensitisation of constituents.
To reduce the incidence of discrimination against persons living with HIV
Resulting from these actions, it is expected that there will be a reduction of:
- Stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV and AIDS
- The incidence of HIV and AIDS amongst all workers
THE HIV/AIDS CORE GROUP
The HIV/AIDS Core Group was established in 2001 with representation from the following organisations:
- Ministry of Labour
- Labour Department
- Barbados Vocational Training Board
- Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council
- Ministry of Civil Service
- National HIV/AIDS Commission
- Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados
- Barbados Employers' Confederation
- Government Information Service
- Training Administration Division
- Barbados Small Business Association
- AIDS Society of Barbados
- Barbados Christian Council
- CARE Barbados
- Pinelands Creative Workshop
Meetings are held on a quarterly basis to monitor the implementation of the Ministry's work plan and discuss any challenges.
During the first five years the Ministry' Education Programme focused on sensitising the staff of the Ministry and its departments on the issue of HIV and AIDS. This was facilitated through the training of a cadre of public officers to act as HIV/AIDS Educators. These officers have been responsible for providing training on request to organisations in the public and private sectors.
In addition to this service, the Ministry conducts training workshops on peer education and stigma reduction. To date, over thirty-eight peer educators have been trained to assist with the HIV/AIDS programme both in the workplace and the community.
From 2004 to 2007 the Ministry collaborated with the International Labour Organisation and hosted a training workshop for labour inspectorate on policy development. Several officers from under the aegis of the Ministry were trained in Behaviour Change Communication strategies.
The Ministry collaborates with the Barbados Employers' Confederation to conduct ‘Securing the Workforce of the Future' workshop that is aimed at educating school leavers on the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
In an effort to encourage employers to put policies and mechanisms in place to deal with HIV/AIDS, the Ministry also conducts workshops and seminars for employers.
The Ministry engages in a number of community outreach activities to take the messages directly to the workers.
In 2003 the Ministry held its first outreach at Princess Alice Terminal in Bridgetown to target transport and fisherfolk workers in the area. In 2006 a similar exercise was held in Speightstown, St Peter and this outreach was extended to the small and medium size businesses in the immediate community. An integral aspect of the community outreach programme is voluntary counselling and testing.
The Ministry conducted a ‘bus tour' to over forty business places from Lears, St Michael to the Glebe, St George. HIV/AIDS packages were provided for management and their workers.
CODE OF PRACTICE ON HIV/AIDS & OTHER LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESSES IN THE WORKPLACE
The Social Partners of Barbados developed a Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and other Life-Threatening Illnesses in the Workplace to address several critical issues facing employers and employees in relation to HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses in the workplace.
The Social Partnership is tripartite in nature, involving the Government of Barbados, employers' representatives and workers' representatives. This body developed the Code of Practice recognizing the potential impact HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses can have on the business environment. The Social Partners understand the importance of developing a working environment within organizations where persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS can continue to work with dignity and respect.
In the Code of Practice, guidelines are provided for employers to ensure that there is no discrimination in the workplace with respect to "job applications, hiring, upgrading, advancement, promotion, discharge, discipline, lay-offs, privileges of employment, compensation, training or other terms and conditions of employment." For example, employees should not have to submit to HIV tests or disclose their HIV status as a requirement for application for employment or for continued employment.
The Code of Practice also states that "the employer shall, wherever possible, and on a case by case basis, facilitate those employees living with HIV or any other life threatening illness who desire to continue working." The guidelines therefore encourage employers to provide reasonable accommodation for these employees, which can include flexible working hours, job restructuring or time off for medical treatment.
However, the code explains that employers have the right to satisfy himself/herself, if necessary through a fitness evaluation, that the employees living with HIV and other life threatening illnesses will be able to perform their duties in a safe and reliable manner. Employers also have the right to ask the employees known to have a life threatening illness to be medically evaluated if work-place associated problems arise. Such problems may be infrequent attendance or unsatisfactory work caused by mental, physical or emotional conditions. However, the employees must be assured of confidentiality and that the evaluation is part of the employers' efforts to assist and support their employment.
Employers are encouraged to educate and sensitize their employees about HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses. Therefore there should be emphasis placed on providing information about the transmission of these illnesses and on the responsibilities of employees which include:
- Learning all they can about HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses;
- Adhering to procedures set in place to ensure their safety and the safety of their colleagues from exposure to blood and other bodily fluids;
- Treating all colleagues with dignity and respect despite their HIV/AIDS status or if they are afflicted with other life threatening illnesses.
In October, 2003, the Ministry of Labour hosted a seminar to raise awareness of the code of practice among managers in the private, public and informal sectors of the workforce and to encourage organizations to implement workplace policies on HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses. Copies of the code were subsequently distributed to all attendees of the seminar and since then, the Ministry continues to disseminate this information to the public and private sector.
The Ministry encourages employers and employees alike to read and adopt the Social Partners' Code of Practice. Interested persons can contact the Ministry of Labour to acquire a copy of the code.
In 2005 the Ministry conducted an evaluation of its HIV/AIDS programme. Major findings of the study included the need for government to have a policy on HIV/AIDS for the public sector and for orgnisations to have a designated officer to deal with health issues such as HIV/AIDS. Therefore, the Ministry has prepared a draft ‘Policy on HIV/AIDS and Other Life threatening Illnesses for the Public Sector' which was approved by Cabinet in February 2009. A study was also conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Billboard entitled "Don't Get Caught in the HIV/AIDS Net" located in Oistins, Christ Church.
The ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace
Dealing with AIDS in the Workplace by the Barbados Employers Confederation
Discrimination in the Workplace is Wrong by the Barbados Employers Confederation
Don't Let HIV Destroy our Labours of Love
Stigma and Discrimination
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