BYisrael: Trinidad and Tobago late in bringing workplace policy on HIV/Aids

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Members of the audience at the national stakeholder consultation on laws governing HIV/Aids in the workplace on May 15 at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, Lowlands, Tobago. – Photo courtesy Ministry of Labour

MORE than 40 years after the first official case of the virus was confirmed in Trinidad and Tobago, THA Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael laments that the country is still trying to formulate legislation to govern HIV/Aids in the workplace.

She was delivering remarks at a stakeholder consultation on legislation to govern HIV/Aids in the workplace at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands, on May 15.

BYisrael told the gathering, “It is now 2024. If I am not mistaken the first official case of HIV/Aids was identified over 40 years ago in Trinidad and Tobago and to be honest the fact that we are here at this pointy over 40 years later is late. We are extremely late. But like so many other things it is better to be late than never.”

She urged them to think seriously about what they would like to see in the legislation.

“Think about what it is to be a human being at work, what each of you would love to have happen for you, not anybody else, as a human being who is deserving of whatever being you consider God, whatever being you look up to, who is deserving of all of our innate human rights . What would you expect?”

BYisrael, who is also the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, said Trinidad and Tobago has done a decent job with respect to medical treatment for people living with HIV/Aids.

“We do not frequently hear of people dying of HIV or Aids-related illnesses because of the medical advancements that we have. But the reality is that that has not translated into our prevention. So we still have, every single day, quite a number of people learning that they are HIV positive.

“And if we look at the statistics in the room, it is likely that one of you in the room could learn that you are HIV positive. I say that for you to again think about what would you want this baseline to be. How would you want to be treated?”

She said legislation is what she considers to be the “absolute minimum that we can do” to protect those living with the condition in the workplace.

“So let’s think about it. We are treating with human beings. We are treating with ensuring that we respect the rights of human beings and I am saying this so that when we have the consultation we are really, really honest about what we say and what we do and what we put into it.”

Saying that human beings expect a decent level of love, honour and respect, BYisrael said how they behave should always be above what the law says.

“Don’t discriminate. That is not what we are looking for. We are looking for above. And ensure that individuals are able to do what they need to do to be well at work. That’s not what were looking for. What we are looking for is above.”

She said the issues raised at the consultation must not go to waste.

“Do not allow the points that are raised here today to be placed on a paper and left there.”

BYisrael urged Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie, who also addressed the consultation, to impress upon the cabinet the need to finally bring legislation to govern HIV/Aids in the workplace.

“Go back to the cabinet and indicate that we are here 40 years later and, therefore, we should not be wasting any more time with this.”