KUALA LUMPUR: Works are underway to legislate the HIV and AIDS in Workplace Policy by 2020, a vision pushed forth by the Malaysian Aids Foundation (MAF).
Confirming this, Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot said the ministry is working closely with MAF on a long term plan to legislate the policy.
He said the government will study the guidelines and code of practice related to employees with HIV and AIDS to make it a regulation for all corporate companies to abide.
The Code of Practice on Prevention and Management of HIV and AIDS at the Workplace was developed in 2001 by the Occupational Safety and Health Department (DOSH) upon recognising the role of employers in addressing the HIV and AIDs issues at the workplace.
“Right now it is just a voluntary compliance to the code of practice. But we want to try to make organisations be obligated to the code of practice.
“The (short term) plan of the ministry is to look into holistic review of the guidelines and also on the laws governing employment and workplace,” he told reporters when met after he delivered his opening speech at a forum on the ‘Impact of HIV on Businesses’ today.
Meanwhile the long term plan to legislate the HIV and AIDS in Workplace Policy by 2020, Riot said will proactive measure to address the epidemic.
“A lot of laws are outdated and have not been amended accordingly. There are 25 Acts guiding the ministry and we want as much as possible to amend the Acts,” he said.
Without elaborating further, Riot said the ministry will engage with MAF and other stakeholders to review the code according to international standards.
“We are looking at any areas that can be improved further. We have to engage the stakeholders and refer to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. We cannot give a timeline yet as to when the draft would be ready or when the regulation would be completed,” he said.
In his speech earlier, he said the ministry is committed to reviewing the code of practice to reflect the progress and advances in HIV and prevention and treatment made in the past decade.
“We will also strengthen our commitment to support the high impact work of the MAF and its sister organisation the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) in the enactment of the code of practice and ensuring legal protection for workers living with HIV against any form of HIV-based workplace discrimination,” Riot said.
Malaysia has recorded a total of 111,916 notified HIV infections since 1986, of which 18,827 cases resulted in AIDS-related deaths.
“However, owing to the coverage of lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, the first line of which is provided for free by the Health Ministry, AIDS-related deaths have stabilised in the past decade.
“This situation has led to significant improvement in the quality of life of people living with HIV, although people living with HIV – particularly workers and employees in the business sector – continue to be affected by attitudes, practices and policies that stigmatise and discriminate against them,” Riot said.
MAF trustee and MAC president Bakhtiar Talhah said despite the advancement in HIV science and reduced AIDS-related deaths for over 30 years, people living in HIV continue to be affected by policies and practices that stigmatise and discriminate against them.
“In 2015, one-third of the complaints of HIV-related discrimination that were reported to us concerned the workplace, including instances of termination, forced resignation, demotion and nonconsensual disclosure of HIV status by panel doctor.
“As alarming as this situation is, employers need to recognise that not only does HIV workplace discrimination cost businesses productivity and profitability due to loss of talent, but also calls into question the employer’s ability and commitment to protecting the rights of their employees,” he said.