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Friday, March 11, 2011

Hepatitis B Discrimination? Not Anymore

Scenario: A job applicant who is asymptomatic had laboratory testing by virtue of an employment requirement  and found out for the first time that he is HBsAg-positive. Without appropriate medical evaluation and counseling, because of the positive result, he was declared unfit to work. Poor applicant! He is otherwise healthy but because of being HBs Ag(+), his dreams came down crashing.

These days, the above applicant in the Philippines need not fear.

He is protected from this kind of discrimination since the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines has issued Department Advisory No. 5 Series of 2010 which is known as the Guidelines for the Implementation of a Workplace Policy and Program on Hepatitis B.

This guideline applies to all workplace in the private sector including their supply chain.

With this guideline:

  • "Personal Protective equipment shall be made available for all workers in high risk occupations at all times."
  • "For those occupations with a conceivable risk of Hepatitis B transmission in the workplace...Hepatitis B vaccination is required."
  • "Individuals found to be Hepatitis B positive shall not be declared unfit to work without appropriate medical evaluation and counselling."
  • "Workers shall not be terminated on the basis of the actual, perceived or suspected Hepatitis B status."
  • "Workers shall not be discriminated against, from pre to post-employment, including hiring, promotion or assignment, because of their Hepatitis B status."
  • "Job applicants and workers shall not be compelled to disclose their Hepatitis B status and other related medical information."
These are just parts of the said department advisory and this is in response to people who may have misconceptions as to how Hepatitis B is really transmitted.

HBV or the Hepatitis B virus is NOT spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, kissing, hugging, holding hands, sneezing or coughing.

One might be surprised nowadays that even some healthworkers have these misconceptions. Well, it is clear then. There is this department advisory and workers should be aware of this to protect themselves from possible Hepatitis B discrimination. Doctors too should be aware of this to educate their patients who are applicants.

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