HIV-Positive Employees Still Face Discrimination in Thai Business Sector, Nation Reports
Thailand's business leaders have not fulfilled a promise to reduce discrimination against HIV-positive employees in the country's business sector, Thailand's Nation reports. Thai business leaders attending an international summit in 2001 agreed to take steps to reduce discrimination in the work force. However, recent complaints received by the country's Centre for AIDS Rights show that Thai employers have asked job applicants to submit blood for HIV tests, have screened employees during annual medical exams and fired HIV-positive employees. A recent survey conducted by the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS of 510 businesses found that the percentage of companies conducting compulsory pre-employment HIV testing fell from 27% in 2001 to 12% in 2004, TBCA Executive Director Anthony Pramualratana said, according to the Nation. The survey also found that the percentage of companies that said they would not terminate HIV-positive employees has decreased from 64% in 2001 to 41% currently, the Nation reports.
CAR program officer Sathien Tanprom said that although companies claim they do not discriminate on the basis of HIV status, many companies do so in practice, the Nation reports. CAR and the Thai AIDS Access Foundation say that discrimination against HIV-positive employees amounts to a violation of human rights that "fl[ies] in the face" of the country's commitment to ensuring that at least 50% of companies establish HIV/AIDS-friendly policies by 2003, according to the Nation. Sathien said, "Although many employers verbally promised to stop preventing the hiring of workers with HIV, none dared make it a formal company policy." Only a "handful" of companies in Thailand have adopted all of the HIV-friendly workplace policies, Anthony said, according to the Nation. These policies include anti-discrimination training, prevention programs and workplace support networks. Ignorance among upper management is largely responsible for the lack of HIV-friendly programs, according to Anthony, the Nation reports (Nation, 7/5). However, the Thai government after the XV International AIDS Conference plans to launch a campaign focused on employers and creating better job opportunities for HIV-positive employees, the Bangkok Post reports. The campaign aims to encourage factories to employ more HIV/AIDS patients and includes an educational campaign about how HIV is transmitted (Bangkok Post, 7/7).
Advocates also are criticizing the Thai government for denying people living with HIV/AIDS equal access to antiretroviral drugs, the Bangkok Post reports. The government's requirement that HIV/AIDS patients who receive public health services through the country's Social Welfare Fund pay extra for antiretrovirals that cost more than $120 per month is "unacceptable" because they already contribute part of their income to the fund, AAF Director Nimit Tien-udom said, according to the Nation. All workers must contribute 5% of their monthly salaries to the fund, and employers contribute an equal amount per employee. Unlike the National Health Care Program -- which allows HIV/AIDS patients access to generic antiretrovirals for 75 cents per month -- workers covered by the Social Health program pay the difference in cost for any drug treatment regimen that exceeds the fund's budget (Bangkok Post, 7/7).