It is an open secret that house workers are an important component of the home as they play important roles at home.
They handle critical and sensitive chores that include food preparation and taking care of children.
In this era of HIV and Aids, some employers subject house workers to a mandatory HIV test as a precondition to employment, arguing that their families need to be protected.
Is it right to subject these workers to these tests? Is it an infringement of their human rights to do so?
Ntcheu resident Orpah Lobinala thinks a mandatory HIV test is important for safety purposes as the workers become a part of families; hence, the need to know the worker’s status.
“It actually becomes beneficial to both sides in case the worker is unable to discharge her/his duties effectually for whatever reason. Again, with their responsibility of taking care of children, there can be arrangements to avoid infecting them through carelessness.
“No-one has the right to infect others, intentionally or otherwise. My house girl got tested and that way, my mind is at ease as I know exactly how to deal with the situation,” she says.
Fyness Sam of Area 25 in Lilongwe says her family subscribes to the idea of a mandatory HIV test. They have a maid Nolia Chimtali who comes from Thyolo.
“House workers have the right not to go for blood testing, but also the right not to infect others. Most would shun voluntary counselling and testing [VCT] for fear of losing their jobs should they test positive.
“But they should be assured that you are doing that for their well being and safety of the family,” she said.
Nolia too believes that employers have the right to know the sero status of a maid prior to employment.
But Mphatso Nankwawa, a journalism student at The Polytechnic’s Continuing Education Centre Lilongwe campus, says it was wrong to impose an HIV test on house workers.
“Workers should disclose their status at will. Forcing them to get tested is violating their right to privacy,” he said.
Charles Chaona, a social worker in Dowa, says while information about employees is private, it was good for both employee and the family to agree on modalities to avoid embarrassment.