Business trust's HIV/AIDS initiative

Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: With about 140 companies and their 44,000 employees signing up to follow an HIV/AIDS policy at the workplace, the initial steps towards ensuring a healthy, non-discriminatory environment at work seems to have been taken.

The initiative started by the Indian Business Trust for HIV/AIDS, a unit of the Confederation of Indian Industry, has extended the vigorous battle against the virus taking place in society to the workplace.

As per the policy, the company is required to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its employees, educate its staff and their family about prevention, care and counselling and safe blood donation. It pledges that if an employee is infected, the company will keep the information confidential and allow the positive employee to continue to work in the current job unless medical conditions interfere.

The 140 companies have taken a major decision by promising that they will not discriminate against a positive employee with regard to promotions, training or privileges applicable to all employees of the organisation.

Furthermore, the organisation is expected to adhere to its commitment that it will not perform HIV tests on employees as part of its periodic health checkups without first obtaining the employee's informed consent and providing pre-test counselling.

This policy will help build positive and supportive attitudes towards those infected and promote health and safety among employees, according to T.T. Ashok, chairman, development sub-committee, CII and managing director, Taylor Rubber Industries. He says these efforts will also focus on the supply chain of these companies, covering their vendors, suppliers, transport operators and the like.

Putting up hoardings all over the city carrying AIDS awareness messages, establishing voluntary testing and counselling centres and working with the state governments will all form part of the initiative.

It is a cause of great concern that 90 per cent of all HIV infection is reported among people in the productive age group 15-45 years, Mr. Ashok says. Clearly, the economy is dependent on this age group and concrete steps need to be taken to protect them.

On behalf of its 5,300 members, the CII has decided to take the leap forward to make an announcement that the Indian corporate sector not only understands its responsibility but is also geared to deal with HIV/AIDS at the workplace.

Corporate walk

Further, to commemorate World AIDS Day, the CII has organised a corporate walk on December 3, where top corporates, celebrities, students and volunteers of NGOs will take steps for creating awareness. In addition, a motorbike rally from Gandhi Statue to Image Auditorium will also be flagged off on the same day. Cultural programmes by college and school students will be part of the elaborate arrangements made by the CII for December 3.