Fighting for the Right of HIV/AIDS Workers
My name is James Ford and I’m HIV positive. I’ve lived with the condition for seven years but I’m always positive about it. The seven years have not been my best especially during the initial two years as I tried to come into term of accepting that I was living with the virus and coming publicly to admit that I was positive.
It was a bold and commendable move and I never regret why I did so. But after coming public about it I faced a lot of stigmatization especially from my fellow workers at the post and eventually I was dismissed of my duties six months after.
I challenged my dismissal at a court of law and my employer was instructed to pay me for the damages and reinstate me. But even after being reinstated, I quit the job after four months. I did so because I contemplated that there could be many other workers living with HIV and were being discriminated upon on the basis of a condition which I presumed entirely never got into their line of work. Therefore after quitting work, I decided to start an organization which could pressure the trade unions to protect the right of workers living with HIV and were being discriminated against.
Living with HIV Doesn’t Incapacitate the Capability of Any Worker
According to our constitution, every citizen had equal rights and opportunities to work and there was no need for being discriminated if at all they were executing their mandate accordingly and were being productive at work.
Among the pillars of the goals of my organization was to let all employers know that HIV-AIDS can’t be transmitted at the workplace even when workers are working as a team, and by sidelining any one on the basis of their condition there was a likelihood of a downward trend in productivity.
I must agree that there are psychological factors that may stress a person living with HIV-AIDS and this may have a negative effect at work, but this is more promoted by the stigmatization that may take place at work. If at all a HIV worker is accepted and given a conducive atmosphere where he/she is treated as an equal, there are higher chances of mitigating the psychological stress and promote motivation at work. Needless to say, there are many other factors that may affect us psychologically apart from HIV, such as domestic issues and these to can derail the performance at work and these case are not isolated the same way HIV case were isolated in many organization especially those in the private sector.
Trade Unions Need to Address the Plight of HIV/AIDS Victims
So through my organization, o lobbied for labor movement in my country to adopt strategies to deal with the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and its prevention by putting the workplace as an enabling and important platform in the design stage of successful prevention strategies all the while enabling all workers to cease discriminating those living with the condition.
There was need to effective and quality awareness to the general public as well so as to sensitize the public against discrimination given that some customers may choose not to be served by a person living with HIV. It was paramount for the trade unions in conjunction with the public to hold awareness programs which could see the general public educated about HIV and discrimination.
Through the efforts of my organization and other human rights groups, we were able to hold several consultative meetings and seminars to address the situation and today I’m happy because there are minimum cases of stigmatization. I’m also glad that training and care of HIV is being carried out by various organizations and worker can work efficiently without being discriminated against.