HIV/AIDS Awareness Advocate Jerico Paterno: “The right to be free from being denied employment based on HIV status”

wad_ jericoJerico Paterno

Community Health Outreach Worker: Pinoy Plus, Association

Living with HIV since 2005

“The right to be free from being denied employment based on HIV status”

 It was in Dubai when Jerico first found out that he was HIV+. It was a surprise and an unfortunate turn of event Jerico who like many migrant workers dreamt of working abroad to give his family a better life.

 “I took the HIV test as part of a pre-employment requirement. I was surprised to find that I tested positive. I had never shown signs of being sick.”, he recalls. There was little time for Jerico to get over his initial shock, he was immediately quarantined and deported back to the Philippines.

 “I was frightened. I knew very little about HIV, and confused it with AIDS. I thought I didn’t have long to live.”

The issue of mandatory HIV testing as a condition of entry, stay or employment for migrant workers in their destination countries is a subject of debate in the international community. The Coordination of  Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia), a regional NGO that works on health issues and health issues, calls the policy and practice of mandatory testing for migrant workers “ discriminatory, dehumanizing and violates migrants’ rights.”

Jerico himself has played an active role in advocating migrant workers’ rights as a member of Pinoy Plus. Jerico has been invited to various international HIV/AIDS conferences in Switzerland and Indonesia to speak about his experience.

“Mandatory testing is just one of the forms of discrimination people living with HIV/AIDS face, there are many others.” stresses Jerico.

 To uncover these other forms of human rights violations, Pinoy Plus’ together with the UNAIDS, is conducting a study called “The Stigma Index” where people living with HIV/AIDS were interviewed and asked to narrate the details of the own experiences of discrimination. The results of the study are slated for release in early 2010.

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