Denpasar (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - The business community is required to support HIV/AIDS education and prevention programmes to protect productive manpower of Bali, Indonesia, a hotel practitioner explained.
I Gede Suarsa, general manager of a luxury villa network in Seminyak, shared his experience in providing education and prevention programmes while he was working as the general manager of the Melia Hotel.
"We have heard rumors about HIV/AIDS in the workplace, but we don't have adequate and clear information on this," Suarsa said.
Lack of knowledge and information has led to misunderstandings and misleading conceptions on HIV/AIDS.
"Many workers obtain inaccurate information about HIV/AIDS and people with HIV/AIDS," Suarsa said.
During his time at the Melia Hotel, Suarsa implemented a series of programmes, including educational measures, to give the hotel's employees accurate facts and information about HIV/AIDS.
"They were also taught how to support colleagues who suffered from HIV/AIDS. It was a kind of peer education scheme," Suarsa said.
Suarsa further said that at that time, government-sponsored HIV/AIDS prevention programmes rarely reached out to workers in private institutions and tourism.
In addition to the workers, the managements of private companies should also understand about HIV/AIDS.
"By having comprehensive knowledge on the issues, management is expected to eliminate any discriminative treatment against workers who are affected by HIV/AIDS," he said.
Management may ask workers to have regular medical checkups, including blood tests, in order to obtain information on their employees' health.
Those who were found to have HIV/AIDS could get serious medical treatment and advocacy from doctors and experts.
"However, what is happening now is the management mostly fires these workers, while their colleagues discriminate against them and, many times, treat them inhumanely," he said.
I Gusti Agung Jiwa Tengah, coordinator of the Bali chapter of the Commission for HIV/AIDS Prevention Programmes admitted that the commission had very limited funding to reach out to workers.
"Some companies have asked the commission to conduct HIV/AIDS tests on their employees, but we have yet to do so," Jiwa Tengah noted.
There were requirements that stipulated companies should follow up on the tests with educational and preventive measures, he said.
The Manpower and Transmigration Ministry issued a decree in 2004 requiring all companies to implement HIV/AIDS education and preventive programmes.
The decree also protects employees being discriminated against by both management and colleagues when they are found to have HIV/AIDS, as well as stating that workers with HIV/AIDS should receive health treatment and counseling.
Wira Sunetra, head of Bali Health Agency's disease prevention and sanitation section, pointed out that the stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS were still widespread among all groups in society.
"When people have understanding and are aware that people with HIV/AIDS are entitled to family and community support, as well as access to medication, they will treat them better," the doctor said.
The doctor was critical that a large number of companies had insisted that their workers undergo health tests to confirm they were free of HIV/AIDS.
"This is very discriminatory. The tests should only be applied to high-risk groups, not to workers in general, and the tests must be done voluntarily, not with force," the doctor added.
According to data from the provincial commission on HIV/AIDS prevention compiled between 1987 to 2011, there were 4,464 people in Bali found to be infected, 392 of whom have died. However, the actual number could be higher because many people were still unaware, unwilling or had no access to the appropriate tests.
The number of cases in Denpasar reached 1,980, the highest of all regions, followed by Buleleng regency with 979 cases and Badung regency with 727 cases.