ction for AIDS Singapore extends its multi-pronged efforts to address the challenges of the 40-year-old pandemic with a focus on ending inequalities and eradicating HIV-related stigma and discrimination
The last two years have been challenging for communities across the world given the profound impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the way we work, live and play. The pandemic’s impact has also been immense on those infected and affected by HIV. Like organisations across Singapore and around the world, Action for AIDS Singapore (AfA Singapore) swiftly adopted safe and effective ways of working to continue delivering our programmes and services.
To mark World AIDS Day 2021 and to address the UNAIDS’s 2021 call to ‘End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics’, AfA has planned a series of activities to engage the community both in-person and online.
These activities include the launch of a half hour World AIDS Day 2021 Commemorative Video on YouTube. The video will feature messages from AfA President Prof Roy Chan and Executive Director Sumita Banerjee; narrated stories by renowned Singapore personalities and long-time supporters Anita Kapoor, Neo Swee Lin and Lim Kay Siu; a reiteration of the Undetectable=Untransmissible message by AfA executive committee member Dr. Wong Cheng Seong; a special “Nobody Asked” clip by well-known social media content-creator Preetipls (Preeti Nair) addressing common HIV/AIDS misconceptions; and performances by Singapore drag queen Victoria Wondersnatch, MediaCorp artiste and AfA Ambassador Chen Tian Wen, and AfA staff members Jing Lin and Ben Leong. The video will be launched at 6.00pm on December 1, 2021, at https://www.youtube.com/c/AfASingapore1988
To further community engagement, a Twitter Spaces discussion will be held that will discuss community efforts to address HIV in Asia at https://twitter.com/afa_singapore with participation from AfA.
AfA is also holding an in-person event. The first is the screening of two specially commissioned short films that address Stigma & Discrimination. These films were recipients of the AfA Fund for the Arts award – and are – “The Note” by Pilgrim Pictures and “Sam” by Optical Films. The screening will take place this evening (December 1, 2021) at a private event at The Projector X, and will be hosted by Victoria Wondersnatch.
The second in-person event will be HIV testing. Free tests will be available in the month of December at both the Anonymous and Mobile Testing Sites as well as ongoing outreach at venues serving the MSM community. Details for these activities can be found at www.afa.org.sg and www.gayhealth.sg.
Both our in-person events will be conducted in compliance with prevailing COVID-19 safe management measures.
Finally, AfA has released a statement against HIV related stigma and discrimination, please refer to the following statement which was issued yesterday and posted at https://afa.org.sg/aboutus/pressroom/
AfA Statement on an Anti-Discrimination in the Workplace Law
1. On 29 August 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will enact new laws to formally enshrine the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices into statute. The TAFEP Guidelines are principally guided by five principles of Fair Employment Practices:
- Recruit and select employees on the basis of merit (such as skills, experience, or ability to perform the job), regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability.
- Treat employees fairly and with respect and implement progressive human resource management systems.
- Provide employees with equal opportunity to be considered for training and development based on their strengths and needs to help them achieve their full potential.
- Reward employees fairly based on their ability, performance, contribution, and experience.
- Abide by labour laws and adopt the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.
2. The World AIDS Day theme adopted by UNAIDS in 2021 is ‘End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics’. Despite major advances in HIV treatment and prevention, HIV related inequalities that perpetuate stigma and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations affected by HIV continue to pose a major barrier in accessing the latest HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
3. Workplaces can play a crucial role to end discrimination against PLHIV in Singapore. HIV is an important yet under-appreciated workplace issue. Increasing awareness of HIV among employees and the acceptance of PLHIVs in the workplace must be part of a company’s wider framework of diversity and inclusion.
4. Discriminatory hiring practices such as unnecessary and inappropriate pre-employment HIV screening, unlawful termination, unjustified transfer to other work positions (side-tracking) and hindered promotion continue to plague PLHIV. There is no formal legislation to protect PLHIV against workplace discrimination based on their HIV status. The employment and industrial relations issues arising from HIV/AIDS at work are subject to contractual terms agreed between the employer and the employee, and the general legal regime established under common law and statutes such as the Employment Act and the Industrial Relations (Ref: https://snef.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/hivguidelines.pdf).
5. Most insurance companies do not cover HIV/AIDS in medical benefits offered to employees. Screening for HIV/AIDS may also be required for insurance policies. This allows Human Resource to access confidential medical information when applications for insurance coverage are rejected based on the HIV result. This has repercussions on employment and exacerbates the stigma felt by PLHIV.
6. The challenge of being gainfully employed without the fear of discrimination because of HIV status must be solved if we are to effectively control HIV in Singapore. HIV infection is a chronic manageable condition and should not be a basis for discrimination. Workplaces must recognize that PLHIV who are on effective treatment can perform their work as well as any other employee. The fact is that PLHIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment and have suppressed or undetectable viral loads cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Employers and business owners need to stay in touch with medical advances and update human resource policies and practices that relate to HIV/AIDS.
7. AfA welcomes the Government’s plans for an Anti-Discrimination Workplace Law in the workplace that would include age, race, religion, gender, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability. However, it does not go far enough.
8. We urge all employers including the Government to go a step further and make this law inclusive of HIV, other health conditions, disabilities, and stigmatised persons, particularly where they neither impact the individual’s ability to work, nor do they affect the wellbeing and health of the workplace and other workers. An inclusive Anti-discrimination Workplace Law will send a clear message that meritocracy, skills and work ethic are valued more than anything else. Such an Anti-Discrimination Workplace Law will go a long way to support our objective to eliminate HIV in Singapore.
Read about Action for AIDS at www.afa.org.sg
This release is issued on behalf of Action for AIDS, Singapore. Please contact the undersigned should you like to speak to any our representatives.
Senior Executive, Partnerships and Communications
Action for AIDS, Singapore
Executive Committee Member and Communications Sub Committee
Action for AIDS, Singapore
Mobile: 9003 7566