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Op-Ed

HIV-positive and looking for a job

An HIV-positive Filipino asks about his options as he looks for work; and Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon answers.

Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon – president of the AIDS Society of the Philippines and current Chief of Clinics of Sta. Ana Hospital – answers all your HIV-related inquiries. For all your questions, email josescon1@gmail.com or info@outragemag.com.

Dear Doc,

I’m HIV-positive looking for a job. When I applied in a call center, I noticed that one of the requirements is for me to get tested for HIV. I am aware this is against the law, so what options do I have to deal with this?

Poz in the Workforce

Republic Act 8504, entitled “AN ACT PROMULGATING POLICIES AND PRESCRIBING MEASURES FOR THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF HIV/AIDS IN THE PHILIPPINES, INSTITUTING A NATIONWIDE HIV/AIDS INFORMATION AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM, ESTABLISHING A COMPREHENSIVE HIV/AIDS MONITORING SYSTEM, STRENGTHENING THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES,” otherwise known as “AIDS Law”, speaks of the following provisions:

Article III: Testing, Screening and Counseling
Section 16: Prohibition on Compulsory HIV Testing – Compulsory HIV testing as a precondition to employment, admission to educational institutions, the provision of medical service or any kind of service shall be deemed unlawful.

So clearly from this, no local company or firm can compel anyone to submit himself or herself for a HIV test. As stipulated in Section 15, informed written consent is needed.

Section. 15: Consent as a Requisite for HIV Testing – No compulsory HIV testing shall be allowed. However, the State shall encourage voluntary testing for individuals with a high risk for contracting HIV; Provided, That written informed consent must first be obtained. Such consent shall be obtained from the person concerned if he/she is of legal age or from the parents or legal guardian in the case of a minor or a mentally incapacitated individual.

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Please be advised that the Philippine law encourages voluntary HIV testing that is accompanied by a pre- and post-HIV test counseling processes. Furthermore, all HIV test should be conducted by a Department of Health (DOH) accredited HIV testing center.

Now, for options that you may consider.

First, it is entirely up for the you (being HIV positive) to submit yourself for an HIV test as part of a screening requirement for work abroad. Unfortunately, the Philippine’s AIDS Law (RA 8504) only applies on Philippine soil, and in other countries (for example, in countries in the Middle East, in Malaysia, and in Singapore), we don’t hold sway on their local laws pertaining people living with HIV (PLHIV).  Currently, there are discussions for the abolition of HIV-related discriminatory policies at ASEAN meetings and the likes; however, for now, the only real option here is to comply or not if we are entertaining for work abroad/in these countries.

Locally, I believe that there are several companies that are PLHIV-friendly and that  recognize that HIV is not a limitation for work. The way to go about this is to first check a company’s health mandate and/or policy and see if they have such thing as “AIDS in the workplace” program policies. Otherwise, check on their Human Resource benefit packages, which is another for a potential applicant to gauge the company’s stand on PLHIV.

Always remember, that a person should be hired because of his innate capacity, skills/competency to deliver, and not because of his/her HIV status.

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