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QC ordinance penalizes discrimination against people with HIV

/ 03:24 PM March 13, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Quezon City Council has passed a measure that would protect workers infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the workplace, and discriminatory employers face revocation of their business permits and licenses.

Apart from protecting the rights of HIV-positive employees, the measure, approved on third and final reading during Monday’s regular council session, seeks to help curb an Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) outbreak in the country. The bill is to be transmitted to Mayor Herbert Bautista for his signature before it goers into effect.

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The draft ordinance, titled “Anti-discrimination on persons perceived or suspected or having found to be positively infected with HIV in workplaces,” echoes provisions of the AIDS prevention and control act of 1998 and the International Labor Organization’s code of practice on HIV/AIDS.

It quotes the AIDS prevention and control act of 1998, thus, “Discrimination in all its forms and subtleties, against individuals with HIV or persons perceived or suspected of having HIV shall be considered inimical to individual and national interest.”

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The measure defines discrimination as “Any act that may degrade human dignity. It also refers to unequal treatment given, whether in the form of policy, decision, action or sanction, to an employee or applicant in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition or privilege of employment due to the reason that the said employee or applicant is perceived, suspected or confirmed to be infected with HIV.”

The draft ordinance notes that an AIDS epidemic is possible in the country because of “its burgeoning sex industry, changing patterns of sexual behavior (particularly among the young people), relatively high rates of other sexually transmitted infections, non-use or infrequent use of condoms, low general awareness of HIV/AIDS, and highly mobile population-factors and conditions which are conducive to the potential spread of HIV.”

The Quezon City Council considers HIV/AIDS as a public health emergency where the workplace is key to its prevention. Based on records of the Quezon City Health Department, there are 57 reported HIV-positive individuals in the locality who are “mostly of working age and that may face prejudice and discrimination in their respective workplaces.”

“Contrary to common notion, HIV cannot be transmitted through normal work or social contact, for example, sharing utensils and cutlery, coughing or sneezing, shaking hands, hugging and kissing, using the same glass, toilet seats or using a keyboard or through a mosquito bite,” the City Council noted in a statement.

Under the ordinance employers cannot treat HIV infection as a disability and it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant who “is perceived, suspected or confirmed to (be) infected with HIV in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.”

The measure likewise prohibits employers from requiring compulsory HIV testing of job applicants or  current employees who are suspected to be infected with HIV.

Instead, the ordinance requires local government and private employers to develop an official HIV protocol in handling suspected or HIV-positive cases in the workplace and are directed to develop, implement, evaluate and fund an HIV/AIDS education and information program for all its workers.

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“HIV/AIDS education shall be integrated in the orientation, training, continuing education and other human resource development programs of employers in all government and private offices,” the measure states.

HIV-infected workers who feel they are being discriminated against may report to the Quezon City Public Employment Service Office and the local Tripartite Industrial Peace Council.

Should an employer or business entity be found guilty of committing discriminatory acts, its business license and permit will be revoked.

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TAGS: Business, Health, HIV/AIDS, Labor, Legislation, Metro, news, Quezon City
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