Sunday, February 12, 2012

HIV is a workplace issue—NGO

MANILA, Feb. 12, 2012—Human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) is a workplace issue that needed to be properly addressed. This was the statement of the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) as discrimination continues against people living with HIV (PL-HIV).

In a paper by ISAC project development officer Jeremy O. Cajiuat titled “REVERSING THE CULTURE OF BLAME: The case for HIV-AIDS as a workplace issue for seafarers”, he said that prejudice from employers, in the form of denial of employment possibilities and adequate assistance make it difficult for PL-HIV to cope with the often fatal complications of this illness.
“Sadly, contrary to accepted international principles that seek to protect PLWAs [people living with HIV-AIDS], government agencies in the Philippines continue to adopt these prejudiced views that eventually result in more serious consequences,” reads Cajiuat’s paper. Cajiuat is referring to the alleged negligence of the seafarer, or worker, for example, that is why he contracted the dreaded disease.
High Court’s decision affirms “prejudice” vs PLWAs
Citing a Supreme Court decision, wherein the High Tribunal seems to blame the “notorious” negligence of the part of the seaman to protect himself from contracting HIV-AIDS, Cajiuat argued that such judicial declarations have the force of law considering the dearth of Philippine labor policy and program extending necessary protection to people in high-risk situations.
“But such policy stance is legally and morally wrong, retrograde and directly contrary to the progressively enlightened world view and the resultant global efforts to fight this serious and highly-fatal disease,” he explained.
For Cajiuat, the State must do something about it, being one of the ardent participant on the global efforts to curb the spread of HIV-AIDS.
Seafarers’ work nature makes them susceptible to HIV/AIDS
Furthermore, the HIV-AIDS prevention course, included in the pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS), a series of lectures for the migrating Filipino worker, seemed to be inadequate “given the severity of the situation and the precariousness of the seafarers’ nature of work… or their susceptibility to exposure to this dreaded disease.”
Citing the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) manual, Cajiuat said that the document had affirmed the veracity of the fact that seafaring is indeed a work that makes one vulnerable of contracting HIV-AIDS.
The ITF Manual states that since the seafarers, by the nature of their work had a very long time of non-contact with other persons, aside from their workmates, thus when docked to a port at any country, “many want to make up for the loss of contacts during the time on board.” The ITF also explained that since seafarers spend more time on the sea than on land, they are deprived of time to attend HIV-AIDS prevention activities.
“Seafarers also suffer when shipping companies try to cut costs by flying ‘flags of convenience’ from countries which have lower standards for registering ships. This undermines safety standards, as well as efforts to provide good workplace HIV/AIDS policies. The struggle against HIV/AIDS is not an isolated one, and is part of the struggle to win better conditions for members,” says the ITF, as quoted in Cajiuat’s paper.
Situation needs a multi-lateral response, not blame
Rather than succumbing to the so-called ‘policy of blame’, says Cajiuat, the situation needs a multi-lateral response that is focused on a more adequate solution, which, in the long term, would reduce the risk of occupational exposure of seafarers to HIV/AIDS.
Cajiuat also observed that, the safety standards being implemented on ships are more focused on making the fleet “sea-worthy.”
“Shipping companies practice strict safety guidelines in the handling of hazardous materials and the daily life of the crew includes regular review, discussion, monitoring and organizational tasking to ensure the safe handling of all kinds of hazardous materials, complete with guidebooks and data sheets on the safe handling, prevention of accidents and deadly exposures, appropriate protective equipment and internationally recognized symbols for workplace hazards like flammable, corrosive or radioactive materials. The same treatment goes for highly-communicable diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis or Viral Hepatitis where international guidelines for its prevention are included in shipboard policies by ship management itself, and listed as occupational under the POEA Contract. Without adopting any prejudicial view on HIV-AIDS, there should be no reason why this illness should not be treated the same as any hazardous substance or infectious illness,” explained Cajiuat.
The seafarers’ rights advocate had also criticized the 2010 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s (POEA) standard employment contract (SEC) for seafarers which excluded HIV/AIDS as a compensable disease.
“Far from advancing the fight against this global plague, or perhaps in contemplation to the impending rise in its incidence among Filipino seafarers, bend over backwards to accommodate the prejudice with encouragement from shipowners and insurance companies. Thus in Section 32 of POEA’s Standard Employment Contract, it is explicitly stated that “death or disability directly caused by sexually transmitted disease shall not be compensable nor shall be entitled to the benefits provided in this Contract,” he said.
This, according to Cajiuat, is already a prejudice against the seafarer.
“The ramification of the Philippine government’s prejudicial view, far from contributing to the global effort to thwart this deadly disease and far removed from the prevailing global view, will discourage people in high-risk occupations, among them seafarers, from asserting their rights and coming out into the open to seek care, treatment, support and protection of their real or perceived HIV/AIDS status. Such counter-productive consequences lay to waste all the participation, effort, budget and resources that the Philippines has already spent to fight HIV-AIDS,” he said.
Work-related definition needs a “redefinition”
Another problem is the definition of “work-related” when it comes of viewing the disease contracted by the worker while on-board.
Cajiuat stressed that the definition of work-related must not be confined to the seaman’s job description alone.
“There are many other conditions onboard the ship of employment that can be considered work-related factors, such as social isolation, marine peril, lack of recreational facilities, hard labor etc. These are crucial factors that other stakeholders, among them the shipowners must consider since they themselves cannot deny the heroic role seafarers play in the safe operation of their ships. The government too, which relies on dollar earnings from seafarers’ remittances, must consider these factors,” he said. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]


Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this blog do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of "THE CATHOLIC MEDIA NETWORK NEWS ONLINE".

Should the Philippine government legalize same-sex marriage?