Argentina

Argentina’s HIV-Positive Job Seekers Fight For End to Illegal Pre-Employment Testing

Leandro Puig, 29, says he lost his job because of the stigma associated with being HIV positive. Although pre-employment HIV testing has been prohibited in Argentina since 2015, many companies still require applicants to get tested, activists and individuals say. This is problematic when discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS is widespread in Argentina’s workplaces.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

Argentina

Though pre-employment HIV testing is prohibited in Argentina, some companies still require job applicants to be tested. Antidiscrimination activists are urging applicants to report companies that ask them to take such tests.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — When Federico filled out a job application in January, he noticed a haunting section at the bottom of the form. If he signed it, the section said, the company would be authorized to test him for HIV and AIDS.

Federico, who asked that only his first name be used to protect his identity because he is HIV positive, took a photo of the text and filed a complaint against the company via Fundación Huésped, an organization that focuses on HIV awareness. He later shared that photo with GPJ.

Pre-employment HIV testing has been prohibited in Argentina since 2015, but some companies still require applicants to take it.

“Being judged by your health makes you feel discriminated against,” Federico says. “At this point, the illness is not a health issue, but rather a matter of stigma.”

Antidiscrimination activists urge job applicants to report companies that ask them to take such tests.

Being judged by your health makes you feel discriminated against. At this point, the illness is not a health issue, but rather a matter of stigma.

Since May 2016, Fundación Huésped has received complaints against 32 labs and companies that perform pre-employment tests, says Florencia Gadea, press officer for Fundación Huésped.

The organization’s website allows people to file anonymous complaints and upload photos of company’s HIV testing requests or policies.

The foundation uses those complaints to file reports with law enforcement, says executive director Kurt Frieder.

Other organizations are on the lookout for companies that thwart the law. The Red Argentina de Jóvenes y Adolescentes Positivos, which handles inquiries from young men and women who are HIV positive, had received 20 pre-employment discrimination inquiries as of August of this year, member Nicolás Páez says. The network also offers legal counseling, mediation and complainant support services.

Discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS is widespread in Argentina’s workplaces.

Between 2012 and 2016, the Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminación, la Xenofobia y el Racismo (INADI), a government institute that works to develop national policies to combat all forms of discrimination, xenophobia and racism, received more than 800 inquiries relating to discrimination against people with HIV in the workplace, says Gabriela Amenta, a director at the institute.

“Discrimination affects the personality, affects the character, our responses and the defense mechanisms that the person needs to carry on with their life and their relationships with others,” Amenta says.

Leandro Puig, 29, told his supervisor in confidence about his HIV diagnosis so that she would understand why he needed to take time off for medical tests.

“I spoke with her about confidentiality. She said she would keep it to herself,” Puig says. “But she started telling my colleagues that I had AIDS.”

I spoke with her about confidentiality. She said she would keep it to herself. But she started telling my colleagues that I had AIDS.

Eventually, he was asked to change departments in order to avoid “tense situations.” His colleagues treated him differently, he says. Some people wouldn’t want even say hello, he recalls.

He filed a complaint with INADI and left that job. Four years later, he was able to reach a financial settlement with the company, he says.

INADI is currently working on a process by which companies can earn an antidiscrimination company certification, to teach them more about discrimination and encourage them to take the necessary steps to prevent it, Amenta says. The institute expects this to continue into next year.

Meanwhile, Puig believes the solution goes hand in hand with awareness.

“We have to denounce it, because denouncing is making the problem visible, and [that process] will lead to the stigma ending,” Puig says.

 

Terry Aguayo, GPJ, translated this article from Spanish.

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