|Mandatory Testing Not Public Health Solution|
CARAM Asia Press Release
The imposed determination of whether a migrant is HIV positive and using that status to exclude the individual from entry or continued stay may have the perverse effect of creating incentives for those migrants to avoid legal routes of entry and encourage illegal entry or falsification of supporting documents. There are 1.91 million documented migrant workers (Immigration department statistics till 30 Jun) and a further million undocumented in Malaysia. Mandatory testing is likely to lead migrant workers to enter through informal channels for fear of deportation.
The National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS (NSP 2006-2010) identified migrant workers as one of the key populations groups who are at risk and further identified drafting and amendments of laws ands policies that discriminate against specific populations as one of the actions aimed at reducing HIV vulnerability. However till today, there remain no targeted national programmes and services for HIV prevention for migrant workers.
HIV status should not be used as an indication of fitness to work as there is now available treatment that allows workers to remain healthy and productive. Although HIV is a communicable disease, as it is only transmitted through specific behaviours. Therefore, prevention is the best public health approach in protecting the public.
The mandatory testing policy is in contradiction to the Code of Practice on Prevention and Management of HIV/AIDS at the Workplace which states that HIV positive workers have the right to continue working and access to treatment and care as they are able to work. The code further stipulates that employers should not practice screening or HIV antibody testing as a pre-condition for employment.
CARAM Asia Regional Coordinator, Cynthia Gabriel said mandatory testing which has been solely used to screen and deport migrant workers has in fact done little to halt the spread of HIV in Malaysia.
“Medical testing should instead be used to improve migrants’ health by acting as a gateway to access health services and treatment,” she said.
She added that CARAM Asia welcomed dialogue with the Ministry of health to further discuss & debate on the issue.
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