BONELA read with keen interest a cover story on the Sunday Standard March 9-15, 2008 with the headline, “Job seekers tested for AIDS without their knowledge”. BONELA is disturbed by this story and, in particular, such workplace practices.
In the said story, the Assistant Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, the Honourable Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, is quoted as saying that, “Through the mediation service of the Department of Labour and Social Security, I have become aware of employment related HIV testing by some employers. As there is a policy gap on this matter, preparations for a policy decision are at an advanced stage. In the meantime, I wish to encourage all employers, including the diamond polishing and cutting companies to desist from this practice.”
While we acknowledge that the Assistant Minister was candid in his answers, we note that a ‘policy’ will not resolve the issue of unwarranted and unjustifiable ‘Post and Pre – employment testing for HIV’. This is so because a policy is not a legally binding instrument and its use is dependant upon the discretion of the employer. The only practical remedy, for such workplace practices, is and remains the enactment of a law that will promote and protect the rights of those infected and affected by HIV in the workplace.
Countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola have long passed such laws to avoid this rampant HIV related discrimination in the workplace. BONELA has, through its ongoing HIV Employment Law Campaign, called on Parliament to emulate such countries and enact a law that is concrete and realistic, as opposed to a policy which is just a guideline and idealistic in its nature.
BONELA is an NGO based in Gaborone that promotes a just and inclusive environment for people affected by HIV and AIDS through education, training community members, advocating for better policies and laws, raising public awareness through media campaigns, monitoring human rights violations, researching key issues and providing free legal aid.