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Stigma of AIDS at the workplace

The stigma attached to AIDS has only been accelerated by ignorance and fear causing discrimination at the workplace. In spite of laws that are meant// to prevent discrimination at the workplace when it comes to HIV/AIDS patients, no one seems to be paying any heed.

Several millions of HIV positive people across the world have been turned away from jobs because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

It has been found that in South Africa, about one in every five persons is HIV positive. With an increasing number of employees affected by the epidemic Africa's private sector now has a HIV/AIDS policy at the workplace which ensures that employees are encouraged to find out the HIV status of an employee. Secondly an HIV positive employee can continue to work without discrimination. Strong legislation ensures that companies follow this policy. In addition the companies also take the initiative towards HIV treatment including sponsoring anti-retroviral treatment for HIV positive employees.

As a result African economies have withstood the pressure of having the world's highest prevalence of HIV. For instance Botswana, where one in every four adults is HIV positive, has one of Africa's strongest economies. Thereby private sector’s response with sensitivity makes for good business sense.

Sir Mark Moody Stuart, Chairman, Anglo American Plc, said, "One of the things we can show is that giving ART free is viable, and forget moral, from a purely commercial point of view, these things pay up,"

At a global conference at the University of Westminster in London, business leaders stressed on the urgency to include HIV/AIDS in business school curriculum.

Prof Shobana Madhavan, University of Westminster, said, "What we will achieve by introducing this subject is awareness, and action as a result."

In spite of India having the highest number of HIV positive cases in the world most companies, including MNCs, still d o not have an HIV/AIDS policy to rule out discrimination.

Tarun Das, Chairman, CII said, "Companies are coming on board because they realise that their workforce will be wiped out if they don't react. But it's very slow, very few companies are coming forward. My biggest challenge is to get companies to come on board."

There's growing realization even in European economies that the government cannot fight the battle against HIV/AIDS alone. The corporate sector needs to respond aggressively.

However corporate involvement in India is still slow. The ILO is now pushing for governments to make HIV/AIDS policies at the workplace legally binding.

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