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PIA Press Release

DOH lauds supporters of "AIDS in the Workplace" Program

by Lyndon Plantilla

Quezon City (22 March) -- Employers and trade unions are in a position to bring down the number of HIV and AIDS cases.

In a media briefing held Friday at the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) headquarters, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said HIV and AIDS program in the workplace is a vital response because the disease increases costs like increased burden of healthcare provision, lower productivity of infected employees, loss of skilled workers and increased risks in the workplace.

"The rising number of HIV cases in the workforce makes it imperative for business to take drastic action to prevent new infections in the labor sector," Cabral stressed, adding that the tripartite workplace sector (including government-management-labor sectors) should highlight interventions targeted to address risky behavior, because this sector includes a vast number of customers and clients, which may include the most-at-risk populations.

"In 2000, an average of one new cases is diagnose every three days. In 2007, it rose tLyndon Plantillao one new case per day. Last year, there were two new cases diagnosed in a day." the health secretary said citing that most infections can be found among economically-productive individuals.

Staunch supporters of "AIDS in the Workplace program" include the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Pilipinas Shell Foundation, International Labour Organization, UNAIDS and the Philippine National AIDS Council.

During the media briefing, PBSP, the Standard Chartered Bank and Amkor Technology shared their HIV and AIDS prevention policies, programs and related practices.

TUCP pushes for HIV and AIDS Prevention at the workplace

Meanwhile, TUCP appreciated the "will power" of Secretary Cabral to face the HIV and AIDS issue head on despite strong opposition from religious blocks on the promotion of condom usage.

"Workplace programs should have been instituted since the enactment of Republic Act 8504 which specifically orders establishments to implement HIV and AIDS programs and policies. This has been the standing advocacy of the labor center," TUCP said in a statement.

The negative impact of HIV and AIDS epidemic could be prevented, TUCP said, if workers have the correct and accurate information about the virus and its prevention as well as access to services and commodities.

"As support to the government program, as early as 1998, we have been providing education and health services to our members such as giving out condoms, teaching them safer sex practices, in short educating them. Workers in particular and Filipinos in general and will benefit if sustainable workplace HIV and AIDS programs are in place," TUCP said.

The call center industry has been highlighted with reports indicating a number of cases of newly diagnosed with HIV infections. TUCP expressed concerned over the stigma and discrimination that this has created to the industry as a whole.

"Working in a call center does not automatically mean that you can get HIV. It is the risky behavior that individuals engage in, such as having unprotected sex, use infected syringes by drug users, etc. These make individuals vulnerable to contracting the virus," TUCP clarified. (PIA) [top]

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