World National
©World National / Roger-Luc Chayer

Group: Vietnam HIV/AIDS Patients Vilified

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnamese with HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS (news - web sites) are often ostracized by their colleagues and employers in the workplace, including being fired or refused jobs, the International Labor Organization said Tuesday.

"Stigma and discrimination is in fact a reality at workplaces," ILO country director Rose Marie Greve said during a workshop on the topic. "More importantly, and very sadly, it is often based on misinformation."

Greve said Vietnam has no anti-discrimination law dealing with HIV/AIDS in the workplace, leading to a loss of skilled workers. "It's not simply the right thing to do, it's simply good business," she said, regarding the retention of HIV-positive employees.

An ILO study conducted earlier this year found that 88 percent of factory workers surveyed associated HIV/AIDS with so-called "social evils," such as prostitution and intravenous drug use.

But Jordan Ryan, country representative of the United Nations (news - web sites) Development Program, said that may have been the case 10 years ago, but the disease is now rapidly spreading within the general population. "HIV is becoming a young person's disease in Vietnam," he said, noting that 64 percent of cases involve people age 15-29. "It has to be a concern for everyone."

The study found that up to 83 percent of respondents said HIV testing should be mandatory for job applicants and 70 percent said HIV/AIDS sufferers should not be allowed to work, while 63 percent said they should work in a separate area. One-third said HIV/AIDS workers should be fired.

There were about 165,400 reported HIV cases this year in Vietnam, and that number is expected to reach 200,000 by 2005, according to the Ministry of Health.