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Guidelines for a Policy on HIV/AIDS

 

Downloadable Word Document

 

Seventh-day Adventist Church

AAIM

Adventist - AIDS International Ministry

Tri-Divisional Africa Office

 

Johannesburg, South Africa 

       RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR A 

Policy on HIV/AIDS
for
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Africa

 

Reviewed at the

3rd Tri-Divisional Health Advisory on HIV and AIDS

Johannesburg - February 21-23, 2006

And

Presented at AAIM’s Board Meetings

of April 6, 2006 (Loma Linda) and October 4, 2006 (GC)

Adopted by  SID & presented for consideration by ECD in 2006

 

      RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR A

 

Policy on HIV/AIDS
for
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church
in Africa

 

Introduction

The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that the Global HIV/AIDS pandemic is a tragedy of immense proportions that is spreading rapidly, and thus demands an appropriate response from the church.

It is medically accepted that the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the human body’s immune system leaving the person infected with HIV increasingly vulnerable to opportunistic infections and malignant tumours. The modes of transmission of HIV are known to be through sexual intercourse, infected blood, and from mother to her unborn child.

HIV infection is at present incurable with a five to seven year mean time from initial infection until the onset of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).  Modern medications can significantly extend the life expectancy of people living with HIV, however the vast majority of people living with HIV in Africa are unable to afford or access these therapies.  Without treatment death usually follows within one to three years after the onset of AIDS.

It is medically accepted that the modes of HIV transmission preclude any significant risk of infection through casual contact.  People living with HIV therefore do not present a health risk to fellow church members, students at denominational institutions or to denominational employees in the workplace.  An exception may be to health care workers and specialist teams who may be exposed to body fluids in the course of their duties and in the management of medical emergencies.

Managing the epidemic appropriately and effectively in the workplace and offering support and comfort in the community is a Christian response and duty.  In this respect, the Church and all its various institutions, all of its employees, students and members need to understand the various complexities of the epidemic and find joint solutions to the challenge that is HIV/AIDS.

This document outlines the Church’s policy to be followed in addressing the Challenge of HIV/AIDS.  The policy is based on a foundation of acceptance of all and the provision of love and support for those infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.

 

DEFINITION OF TERMS USED IN THIS DOCUMENT

AIDS:                  Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - the terminal clinical phase of infection with HIV

 

Affected:             indicating a person or persons who may be directly or indirectly affected by the impacts of the epidemic, while not necessarily themselves, being infected with the HIV.

 

Benefits:              Benefits referred to relate to any of the following, which may be offered by the employer to employees, and which may include:

1.      medical aid and health related benefits

2.      group life assurance

3.      pensions and provident funds

4.      housing benefits

5.      unemployment insurance

6.      bursaries, training and study subsidies

7.      disability and accident benefits

8.      as well as any such benefits which may relate to spouses or partners and dependants

 

Church - the:       This refers to The Seventh-day Adventist Church or any of its institutions.

 

Discrimination: Any act or omission, including a policy, law, practice, condition or situation which directly or indirectly:-

1.      imposes burdens, obligations or disadvantage on, or

2.      withholds benefits (excluding the protection of benefits), opportunities or advantages from any person on one or more prohibited grounds.

 

Employer:           This refers to The Seventh-day Adventist Church or any of its institutions

 

Health:                Being not only the absence of disease, but also rather the complete physical, mental and social well-being of the individual.

 

HIV:                     Human Immunodeficiency virus - the virus that causes AIDS

 

HIV illness:         Disease conditions and illness resulting from HIV infection and immune deficiency

 

HIV positive:      A ‘positive’ HIV antibody test indicating that a person is infected with HIV.

 

HIV status:          The presence or absence of HIV positive antibody test. The HIV status refers to whether the person is or is not infected with HIV.

 

HIV test:             The HIV antibody test that determines if an individual is infected with HIV.

 

HIV/AIDS Programme Co-ordinator:-

A person or persons within the organisation who have been tasked with supporting the development of an integrated HIV/AIDS strategy and ensuring the company wide implementation of the same. 

 

HIV/AIDS Business Unit Teams:-

A designated team of employees, representing Finance, HR, IR, Communications, Operations, and other specialised functions as appropriate, who are tasked with supporting the implementation of the high level corporate strategy within their respective business units.

 

Immune deficiency:  A weakening or breakdown in the defence capacity of the body rendering the body vulnerable to various infections and healing defects.

 

Immune system:         That part of the body that functions to defend the body against invading harmful organisms (germs) and foreign bodies. It represents the defence and healing capacity of the body.

 

Life Threatening Disease:-Includes but is not limited to

§               Cancer,

§               Cardiac conditions,

§               Tuberculosis,

§               Chronic Obstructive Airway disease,

§               Hepatitis B,

§               Diabetes,

§               Renal Pathology,

§               Etc.

 

Peer educator:            A person who is trained to educate his/her colleagues and community about AIDS and related issues.

 

Pre- and post-test Counselling: Counselling which occurs before an individual has undergone the HIV test (pre-test) and counselling when the individual gets the result of the test (post test), irrespective of whether the HIV test is positive or negative.

 

PWA:                   Person with HIV/AIDS: the accepted term for a person with HIV/AIDS.

 

Role players:  Refers jointly to employees, unions and other, employee representatives and the employer.

 

STDs/GUI’s:       Sexually transmitted diseases / Genital and Urinary Tract Infection (such as gonorrhoea and chancroid) – diseases and infections that are spread from one person to another during sexual intercourse.

 

Trainer:               Trainers appointed by THE COMPANY for the purposes of training groups of employees as peer educators and related activities.

 

Vulnerable

Groups:               Include but are not limited to blind, mentally retarded, and physically handicapped individuals.


 

Purpose and position Statement

The aim of this document is to establish a clear framework within which the Church will:

1.      manage the challenges and threats of HIV/AIDS to its employees at its educational, medical or any other institutions,

2.      provide guidelines for church leaders on how to relate and minister to people living with HIV in their congregations and communities,

3.      endeavour to ensure that its members treat people living with HIV in their communities with Christian love and respect.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa:

 

1.      Is committed to creating and maintaining a safe working environment for all employees and students at its institutions.

2.      Will protect the rights of employees/students who are HIV positive especially their right to be treated with respect and dignity and their right to continue working or studying for as long as they are able, subject to their normal rights and duties.

3.      Undertakes to deal with an employee or student infected with HIV or who has AIDS in the same manner as for employees/students suffering from any other form of life threatening disease, i.e. with love, consideration and respect and in a positive, supportive and not unfairly discriminatory manner.

4.      Acknowledges the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the potential negative impact it presents to the organisation and all aspects of society.

5.      Recognises the direct link between infection by HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) as well as sexual intercourse.  This will be communicated to all employees, students and church members, as far as is reasonably possible.

6.      The responsibility of both the church organization and church leaders to educate their employees, students and members regarding HIV/AIDS, including modes of transmission and means of prevention. 

7.      Seeks, within its means, to minimise the social, economic and developmental consequences of HIV/AIDS on communities, the organisation, and God’s people.

8.      Is committed to providing hope, love and support to all employees, students church members and members of the community who are diagnosed as being HIV positive, so as to assist them to continue to live a dignified and productive life for as long as possible.

9.      Will provide counselling for employees, students and members who are affected in an attempt to improve their overall health, approaching those infected with compassion and respect.

10.  Is committed to providing protection and assistance to women, children, youth, and vulnerable groups

 

The Church is therefore committed to:

 

  1. Following a formal HIV/AIDS strategy and action plan for the African continent.
  2. Providing resources and support to the implementation of an appropriate response programme, within budgetary constraints.
  3. Implementing initiatives to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS/STI’s and other life threatening diseases among employees, students, church and community members; this is in effect merely an extension of our health message and ministry.
  4. Working together with employees, students and church members to develop and implement these initiatives.
  5. Provide training and sensitisation to employees, students and church members, where possible, on how to deal with those who are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.


The Scope of the Policy

With regard to employees and students this policy is an extension of the working policies and procedures of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which may include:-

1.      Health and Safety

2.      Termination on ill Health

3.      Policies on Leaves

4.      Recruiting and Termination

5.      And other relevant policies related to this issue

 

While the Church may be able to mandate a policy for employees and students it recognises that this is not always possible for members.  It therefore commits itself to attempt to instil the principles of non-discrimination, love and acceptance of those infected and/or affected with HIV/AIDS in its members.


 

Principles for employment or Acceptance at an educational Institution

1.      HIV status shall not constitute a reason to preclude any person from employment or access to an educational institution, except for courses of a medical nature that could endanger patients.

2.      Applicants for employment or for admittance to an educational institution do not need to pass a pre-acceptance HIV medical examination, and no testing for the HIV status of any candidate will be required as part of their evaluation, as long as the employees/students HIV status does not place the individuals themselves or their fellow employee/students at risk.   

3.      HIV negative status is not required as part of the job specifications as provided for in any relevant legislation

4.      Employees who contract HIV/AIDS or any other life threatening disease will continue to be employed until such time as their condition begins to severely impact on their work output as defined by their job description or until they are certified by the appropriate medical review board as being medically unfit to work.  HIV status will not be used in any way to discriminate against an employee with regards to continued employment, training, and promotion.

5.      Employees who develop, disclose or are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS will be evaluated against their duties and their continued ability to perform these duties, as well as the organisation’s statutory duty to provide, maintain and ensure a safe working environment and the safe execution of any process.

 

CONFIDENTIALITY

Every employee/student has a right to privacy, therefore:

1.      An employee/student who contracts HIV/AIDS shall not be obliged to inform management or faculty of his/her condition.

2.      HIV negative status is not required as part of the acceptance specifications, as long as the employee/student HIV status does not prove to place the individual himself or herself or their fellow employee/students at risk, or as provided for in any relevant legislation.

3.      In those cases where HIV negative status, or the absence of any other life threatening disease, is required by law as provided for in relevant legislation prospective employees will be informed of these requirements and will be compelled to:-

    1. Undergo HIV counselling and testing before appointment.
    2. Undertake to allow annual routine HIV testing.
    3. Sign an undertaking to disclose their HIV  positive status should they become infected.

 

4.      Confidentiality regarding the HIV or health status of any member of staff or student at an educational institution will be maintained at all times, and will not be divulged to any other person without the prior written consent of the employee/student with the illness.

5.      Breach of confidentiality will be subject to normal disciplinary procedures.

6.      The organization will endeavour to create an environment in which people feel comfortable to disclose their HIV status.


EMPLOYEE rights and benefits

The Church is committed to:

1.      Implement appropriate steps to ensure the sustainability of employee benefits.

2.      The adherence to formal legal requirements and applicable labour legislation.

3.      The adherence to national guidelines as per the relevant Department of Health, consistent with the policies of the church.

4.      The provision of preventative programmes, creating awareness and supporting appropriate changes in behaviour.

 

MANAGEMENT OF INFECTED EMPLOYEES/STUDENTS

On the basis of current medical and scientific evidence it is medically accepted that:

1.      The HIV which causes AIDS, is not transmitted through casual personal contact under normal working conditions.

2.      A risk to the health of co-workers, students or members of the community is not present under normal working conditions.  (Specific exceptions may exist in medical institutions).

3.      Living with HIV/AIDS or any other life threatening disease does not automatically qualify an employee as being incapacitated or unable to work.

Therefore,

 

1.      The co-workers or fellow students of persons living with HIV are expected to continue normal working relationships with such persons.

2.      Employees/students living with HIV/AIDS have the same rights and obligations as all other staff/students.

3.      Employees/students living with HIV/AIDS will be protected against unfair discrimination.

4.       An employee/student with HIV/AIDS is expected to meet the same performance requirements that apply to other employees/students, with reasonable accommodation where necessary. The term “reasonable accommodation” being inclusive of but not limited to retraining, adjusting of work schedules and the transfer to a different position (with salary adjustments as appropriate).

5.      Administrators/lecturers are required to make reasonable accommodations, as with any other employee/student with a disability, to enable the employee/student to meet established performance criteria.

6.      An employee/student with HIV/AIDS is expected to meet the same performance requirements that apply to other employees/students, with reasonable accommodation where necessary. 

7.      In the case of employees/students who have become aware of or who suspect a co-workers/student is HIV positive and therefore refuse to work or study with their colleague they will be provided with appropriate counselling and education so as to remove any fear.  If discrimination due to HIV/AIDS continues, the organisation’s normal disciplinary procedures will apply.

 

Guidelines for CHURCH LEADERS

1.      To encourage the church leaders to use the pulpit and other opportunities or programs to contribute to the effort to combat HIV/AIDS

2.      Church leaders must abide by strict standards of confidentiality on issues of HIV/AIDS

3.      Church leaders should not refuse to officiate weddings, holy communions, foot-washing and any other church practices based on HIV status.

4.      The church leaders should encourage and recommend all its members to undergo HIV counselling and testing, particularly couples to be married.

5.      Church leaders should set an example by undergoing voluntary counselling and testing.

6.      Church leaders have the responsibility to educate their employees, students and members regarding HIV/AIDS, including modes of transmission and means of prevention. 

Guiding Principles for Members

1.      A church member should not be dropped from the church registry (disfellowshipped) on the basis of HIV status.

2.      Confidentiality regarding the HIV or health status of anybody will be maintained at all times, and will not be divulged to any other person without the prior written consent of the individual with the illness.

3.      It is recommended and encouraged that couples to be married request advice to undergo HIV counselling and testing.

4.      Church members should be encouraged to participate in foot washing and all other church practices and ceremonies with people known to be infected with HIV.

 

Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed no later than the 31st March 2008, to accord and reflect developments in the fields of medical, academic, occupational and employment practices, norms and understandings.

 

NOTE:

This “Recommended guidelines for a policy on HIV/AIDS for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa”, will be accompanied by the following church statements as references:

 

1)         Statement on AIDS – 1990; with segments from “Birth Control” – 1999, and

“Sexually Transmitted Diseases” - 1998.

This document was updated and approved at AAIM’s Board Meetings of October

2002 and April 2003.

2)         Statement on Sexual Behavior – 1987

3)         Statement on Values – 2004

4)         Statement on Marriage – 1996

5)         Statement on Home and Family – 1985

6)         Statement on Care of the Dying – 1992

 

To read the statements, please access the web-site of

Official Statements of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at:

http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/index.html