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Unfriendly Skies

This Magazine Staff

According to The Southern African (a Toronto-based diasporic news source), aviation workers in Botswana are in an uproar about new regulations requiring regular screening for HIV—and the potential for dismissal of people who test positive.

The director of the nation’s civil aviation authority, Olefile Moakofi, claimed “there are certain medical conditions that if people are diagnosed to have, then it may impair their judgement in the respective professions that they are rendering.” No details were offered as how the presence of HIV would prevent a pilot or air-traffic controller from conducting his or her job. Young pilots are to be tested annually and older pilots more frequently. Authorities will also test blood pressure and for the presence of diabetes.
The international AIDS organization AVERT says that Botswana has the second highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world—but the country has also been a leader among African nations in terms of the fight to get antiretroviral treatment into the hands of those who need it.
The International Labour Office, a UN agency, says that airlines once provided leadership on issues of HIV in the workplace, but that policies such as the one announced in Botswana are wrong: “Testing for HIV at the workplace […] should be voluntary and confidential, and never used to screen job applicants or employees. Moetapele Motale of the Botswana Air Traffic Controllers Association said “There’s suddenly a growing feeling of uneasiness amongst controllers and pilots.” Indeed.

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