A fortnight ago, I was elated when the Ministry of Finance in Lusaka launched its revised HIV and AIDS, Wellness Workplace Policy.
The Ministry of Finance developed the first HIV and AIDS, Health and Social Welfare Policy in 2006 with a view to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on its employees and family members.
But since the launch of this first policy, new developments have emerged in the area of HIV and AIDS which necessitated the review of the policy.
The launch of the revised policy therefore, means that employees under the Ministry will be more aware about the issues surrounding the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Once the employees are enlightened, it goes without question that their families at home will also be enlightened. This will also trickle down to the community.
Like the Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda said when he launched the policy, the Ministry is the nerve centre of government and that the HIV and AIDS Wellness Workplace policy initiative is very positive and is a move in the right direction.
He said the greatest resource any country has is its people who have the attributes of knowledge and skills, commitment, determination and above all a desirable work ethic and/or culture.
"These are the requirements that propel societies forward but HIV has taken from our midst the most productive segments of our population, the young people in whom society at considerable cost has invested knowledge and skills needed for any meaningful sustainable development of our country," the Minister said.
He emphasised that HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted communicable illnesses (STIs) and even non-communicable complications are serious afflictions that have exerted a toll on our country with glaring unsalutary ramifications for society.
Being healthy is our brief number one. Well the minister could not put it any better than this. The Ministry of Finance is the nerve centre of government because of its day-to-day interactions with all institutions of Government.
A copy of the revised policy indicates that the policy took into account changes in the social, economic, cultural and political factors of the country in matters of HIV/AIDS and other ailments.
It aims at making programmes clearer and easy to implement, monitor and evaluate. This will be achieved through an implementation plan which has been developed to operationalise the policy.
The revised policy also seeks to address health problems which affect the wellness of employees and their family members.
It has been recognised that apart from HIV and AIDS, there has been a significant increase in other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, and cancer which are also affecting employees, hence the term HIV and AIDS, Wellness Workplace Policy.
The overall objective of the policy is to enhance productivity in the Ministry of Finance through mainstreaming HIV and AIDS and other wellness issues into all programmes.
The policy will provide, among others, health education, treatment, care and support programmes to employees, their family members and dependants in order to promote and sustain behaviour change and healthy lifestyles, to promote an environment free from stigma and discrimination among employees, and to increase the uptake of VCT services among employees.
The policy will also provide information and wellness services to employees to promote healthy lifestyles.
It will also create an enabling environment where human rights, fundamental freedoms and gender issues will receive appropriate attention while there shall be no discrimination and/or stigmatisation of employees on the basis of real or perceived HIV status and other infections.
These are but some of the issues involved in the policy and we can only wish the Ministry in general and the Workplace Committee in particular in this enormous task which needs commitment from all the employees.
For comments on HIV/AIDS or any other health issues, do not hesitate to contact me on +260955883145