Do your bit to support workers with HIV, bosses told

A blood sample is tested for HIV in Bangkok, Thailand. There are differing views on whether HIV tests should be made mandatory at work. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) has urged employers to do their part in combating discrimination against workers with HIV.

MAC chairman Bakhtiar Talhah said employers have a crucial role to play in supporting these workers instead of firing them or rejecting their applications.

“Help these workers find the available resources and show them which hospital to refer to.

“HIV has nothing to do with your work,” he said, adding that he is working on a regulation to prevent employers from inquiring into the HIV status of employees.

“Why should you find out whether your employee is HIV-positive or not? There should be no pre-employment testing.”

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) agreed that there should be no discrimination at the workplace.

“They should be treated like any other worker who is being treated for a critical illness,” MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said.

However, he disagreed that employers should not be made aware of workers who have HIV, saying this will not help them.

“Employers should be informed of the status, with the sole intention of assisting such employees and ensuring that they are given the appropriate treatment,” he said.

Malaysian AIDS Council chairman Bakhtiar Talhah.

Malaysian Employers Federation secretary Shamsuddin Bardan concurred that bosses have the right to know about the HIV status of employees.

“When you don’t disclose this information, how will employers be in a position to assist?

“You have the right not to disclose, but you will be suffering in silence and we, as employers, cannot provide the necessary support.”

Getting to the point where employees with HIV are comfortable with disclosing their status, however, may be difficult.

Shamsuddin said the “whole environment” in Malaysia is unfavourable to corporate workers with HIV.

“We need to address the culture and education so that this is not an issue,” he said.

Bakhtiar agreed that it is “all about the mindset”.

“If you go to any country in western Europe, HIV is not a factor in hiring someone for a job. If you’re HIV-positive, on medication and being treated, there’s no problem.

“Here, it’s totally different. Being HIV-positive is equated to being a bad person or a drug abuser.”

“If the environment is right, employers will be able to help reduce cases of discrimination instead of sidelining them,” Shamsuddin added.