We are asked on a daily basis about having domestic workers tested for HIV/Aids. The short answer is NO.

Of course you may ask someone to be tested and even make the arrangements with your own medical practitioner for the test to be done, but you cannot demand that someone be tested or make his or her employment dependant on their agreement to be tested.

Should your domestic worker agree to be tested for HIV/Aids, he or she will have to sign an informed consent form even before blood may be drawn. The worker will receive counseling before the test and will be asked if they are undergoing testing as a pre-condition of employment. They will then be counseled that they are not legally obliged to undergo the test or to inform their employer of the results.

At this point your worker could be tested, receive a result and either not disclose it or lie about their status. They could also not be tested, but lie to the employer that they have undergone the test and have tested negative.

We know of an employer who took her employee to a medical practitioner on the pretext of her undergoing a routine medical examination. Blood was drawn and the woman was tested for HIV/Aids. This constitutes abuse of the woman’s human rights and is legally regarded as an assault. The medical practitioner who informed the employer of the worker’s status was guilty of the serious offence of the breach of confidentiality.

We understand the reluctance to employ a person who has HIV/Aids; the concern for the safety of their family and fear of contracting the dreaded disease. Remember that the virus is spread by exposure to HIV infected blood, unprotected sex with someone with HIV or infected mother to child transmission during labour or breastfeeding. A chat to your doctor or medical professional might help in allaying your fears.

Remember too, that we are unaware of the status of most of the people with whom we interact. Chefs and waiters in restaurants, hairdressers, teachers, sport coaches, team players and opponents, our health care professionals, the list is endless ….

Knowing the status of a particular person could lull us into a false sense of security. Remember that negative today could be positive tomorrow and that universal precautions should be taken at all times.