Submission on the draft circular instruction regarding compensation for occupationally acquired HIV
The Department of Labour is commended for taking the initiative in compiling an Instruction to clarify various issues around compensation for occupationally acquired HIV.
Our experience has been that many employees who are at risk of contracting HIV are unaware of the procedures and requirements for claiming compensation for occupationally acquired HIV. It is therefore important that any Circular on occupationally acquired HIV deal with issues as comprehensively as possible to eliminate any uncertainty. We strongly suggest that this Circular be accompanied by a rigorous public education campaign aimed at informing employees at risk of contracting HIV at the workplace about their rights in respect of compensation for occupationally acquired HIV.
Our key recommendations are:
- That the Department considers the use of two PCR tests instead of laboratory tests at various stages to determine whether HIV infection was as a result of an occupational incident/accident. This will greatly simplify procedures and will give the Commissioner a much more definite and early conclusion about whether an HIV infection was occupationally acquired.
- That the requirement for a base-line test at before 72 hours, be extended to 10 days.
- That the Department revisit the need for testing of source patients in light of the accuracy of determining occupationally acquired HIV through the use of PCR testing. This will eliminate the rights violations that have accompanied testing of source patients.
- That the Circular broadly spells out the treatment available in cases of occupationally acquired HIV. This will greatly assist employees and their health providers and would prevent any inconsistency in the decisions of the Compensation Commissioner regarding medical aid claims.
- That more emphasis be placed on the duties of employers in relation to this issue. We suggest that the Department compiles a pamphlet for employers elaborating on their various duties under current policies and legislation relating to limiting the risk of HIV exposure at the workplace, providing post-exposure prophylaxis in cases of exposure to HIV and actively encouraging employees to test for HIV and assisting them in claiming compensation in cases of occupationally acquired HIV.
This submission comments on each of the sections of the Draft Circular. Where necessary we have suggested that some of the issues covered in the principal Act be repeated or cross referenced in the Circular to facilitate clarity and to assist employees who might not always be in a position to read the Circular and Act in conjunction.