Lawmakers Investigate AIDS in the Workplace

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A high-powered parliamentary delegation last week left the capital on an in-loco outreach investigation to three regions to ascertain the serious economic effect and impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The delegation is led by Swapo parliamentarian, Hansina Christian, deputy chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Human Resources and Social Development. The three regions – Erongo, Oshana and Ohangwena – with the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the country, will be visited by the delegation. “I take very seriously my responsibility to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in the workplace. I fear that if we don’t redouble our efforts to address the disease, we risk compromising the freedom we fought for during our long struggle against colonialism and minority rule. This means that by failing to adequately respond to this crisis, we are compromising social and economic development and jeopardizing the future of our country,” said Christian before the delegation’s departure from Windhoek. The one-week visit to various workplaces in the three regions is aimed at providing a platform for increasing dialogue and information-sharing between members of parliament, government and the business community. “In my opinion HIV/AIDS. which has an adverse impact on the country’s economic and social development, is preventable. Not only is it robbing our country of its workforce, but it leaves many children without families, and breeds hopelessness. To roll back the impact and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, members of parliament have been engaged in addressing HIV/AIDS in our elected capacity as lawmakers, citizen representatives, advocates for the protection of fundamental human rights, and authorities with the constitutional mandate to provide oversight of government,” said Christian. According to her, the regional visits will provide an opportunity for company representatives to share their best practices stemming from business-led initiatives that can serve as models for national programmes. “Thus far, we have developed a collaborative action plan and have begun discussing areas of closer collaboration with the private sector. We have also identified the need to put in place stronger legal instruments to address HIV/AIDS. This programme is a first step in recognizing the unique role the private sector is playing in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” she said. The investigation will also allow the Namibian business sector to make recommendations and to suggest practical interventions and initiatives to parliament for considerng implementation. “We already have a sub-committee in place which conducts outreach to companies in the capital such as De Beers, Coco-Cola and Olthaver & List. We are taking very seriously our commitment to strengthen partnerships with companies and, more importantly, to remain focused on addressing the needs of our people. “By continuing to work with the private sector, we are seeking to encourage companies to continue their efforts and to promote political and business leadership to more effectively implement the required multi-sectoral response to fight the disease,” Christian said of the delegation that visited Oshakati on Saturday for a town-hall meeting with stakeholders. The parliamentary outreach is being conducted as part of a pilot programme supported by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum and will allow for the review of relevant provisions contained in the draft national HIV/AIDS policy. “In light of the reality of HIV/AIDS having a disproportionate impact on women, we are planning to explore programmes that specifically target vulnerable groups such as women and the youth, and particularly considering how workplace policies in a company setting may affect or impact these groups,” Christian said.