Some colleges training students for the hospitality sector, especially food handlers, have allegedly stopped recruitment of those who test HIV-positive.
The revelations come even as Zimbabwe boasts of HIV and Aids awareness levels above 90 percent.Although health experts concur that HIV transmission through food and beverages is unknown, The Sunday Mail has gathered that some HIV-positive students have been discriminated against in the hospitality industry.
According to information at hand, Kundai (not her real name) has been doing a chef course at a named academy in Harare.
Halfway through her programme she and other students were instructed to visit Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital for HIV tests. Those who tested positive were told they would not be certified for the course.
According to the Public Health (Medical Examinations) (Food Handlers) Order of 1994, food handlers must undergo medical examinations to clear them from tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
Said Kundai: “I had to drop the course altogether after learning of my HIV and Aids status. The situation is not only at training level but also prevalent when seeking employment especially in the food, catering and beverages sectors. Some employers are demanding HIV results.”
According to the Labour (HIV and AIDS) Regulations (Statutory Instrument 105 of 2014), it is illegal for a person to undergo HIV testing as an employment precondition.
Part of the SI reads: “No employer shall require, whether directly or indirectly any person to undergo HIV testing or any other forms of screening for HIV as a precondition to the offer of employment.
“No employer shall require any employee, and it shall not be compulsory for any employee to disclose in respect of any matter whatsoever in connection with his or her employment his or her HIV status.” Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Mr George Manyumwa condemned parties engaging in such practices.
“We don’t discriminate on either race or whether a person is living with HIV or not when we consider recruitment or employment. That is an isolated case and we are more than willing to bring the perpetrators to book,” he said.
“However, food handlers do undergo certain medical tests for them to be certified, but HIV is not one of the diseases one is screened for.”
Ministry of Health and Child Care Aids and TB unit director Dr Owen Mugurungi said there were no known risk of transmission of blood borne and sexually transmitted infections during preparation or serving of food and beverages.
“The food industry and the consuming industry must understand that transmission of HIV and Aids by food or beverages is not a risk,” he said.
“It is, however, against the law that people living with HIV be denied employment on the basis of their status. It needs to be emphasised to persons living with HIV that they must comply with the food hygiene and safety requirements applicable to all food handlers.”
Zimbabwe has an estimated 1,4 million people living with HIV and Aids and about 830 000 are women above 15 years.
The International Labour Organisation provides that HIV and Aids screening should not be required of job applicants or persons in employment.
In 2010, governments, employers and workers adopted a new international labour standard on HIV and Aids, the first such human rights instrument.
The final instrument was based on the following principles:
There should be no discrimination against or stigmatisation of workers, in particular job seekers and job applicants, on the grounds of real or perceived HIV status or the fact that they belong to segments of the population perceived to be at greater risk of more vulnerable to HIV infection;
Workers, their families and dependants should enjoy protection of privacy in particular regard to their HIV status;
No workers should be required to undertake an HIV test or disclose their HIV status; and Persons with HIV-related illnesses should be able to work as long as they are fit to do so.