The Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) says that up to 30% of people living with HIV/Aids have reported experiencing discrimination by employers due to their status, both during the recruitment process and while being employed.
In response to the figures, Labour Minister, Suchart Chomklin yesterday (Dec 1) urged employers to eliminate such discriminatory practices.
The Foundation for Aids Rights (FAR) says about 470,000 people are living with HIV/Aids in Thailand. They have equal employment rights in Thai law and the DLPW is duty-bound to support them by ensuring workplaces respect these.
The DLPW has three demands of employers: that they treat job applicants fairly, regardless of their HIV/Aids status; they educate employees about the virus and how to prevent transmission; and that they offer help to infected employees to ensure they can access the medications they need through the government’s social security programme.
“There has been tremendous advances in medical technology for HIV/Aids patients over the past several years,” said DLPW director-general Apinya Sujittanan. “If treated properly, employees [with HIV/Aids] can work alongside healthy employees without any problem.”
The Labour Minister’s announcement coincided with World Aids Day yesterday.
The underlying message of this year’s campaign was to ensure HIV/Aids sufferers can live in society without suffering discrimination.
FAR director Supattra Nakapew said about 85% of HIV/Aids patients in Thailand were already benefiting from medical treatments worth B3 billion each year but the rest either had no access to such treatment or were reluctant to access it.
Ms Supattra said many of those who chose not to seek treatment included drug users, some of whom mistakenly thought they needed to kick the habit first before accessing HIV/Aids treatment.
However, she stressed that individuals with HIV/Aids who regularly take their prescribed anti-retroviral medication and remain fit are able to work as efficiently as anyone else.
Nevertheless, she continued, workplace discrimination was still common.