"As I speak to you, millions of workers in their workplaces, are working with a virus called HIV and are faced with stigma and discrimination and other related problems, simply because they are HIV positive. By the time we are through with this meeting, hundreds of them would have died due to AIDS.
HIV/AIDS is a workplace issue, linked to the broader issues of economic growth and sustainable development. It affects both the individual workers, including migrant workers, their dependants and the enterprises that employ them. It undermines the capacity of the economy to sustain decent jobs and adequate living standards for all.
At the same time the workplace offers distinct opportunities and advantages as a key delivery point for HIV prevention and treatment programmes for workers and their dependants. The position of labour unions in the workplace makes them ideally placed to help workers who are reluctant to test for fear of discrimination, as well as the millions of workers diagnosed with HIV and who, because of stigma, ignorance and fear of dismissal or deportation, have no idea how to deal with their situation. From our experience, when unions are involved, workers feel better protected, and receive the support they need.
Despite the 2001 UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the fact that HIV/AIDS has been with us for nearly 30 years, the potential of workplaces as vital entry points for HIV/AIDS programmes continues to be overlooked. Workplaces have not been targeted by most national programmes and labour unions still do not receive recognition as civil society organisations that are key players in HIV/AIDS workplace interventions.
Labour unions would like to see:
ˇ Increased public and private investment for workplace initiatives through education prevention, care, support and treatment programmes;
ˇ Increased investment for training of labour union activists and occupational health and safety personnel to effectively implement workplace initiatives;
ˇ The adoption of occupational health and safety measures and non-discriminatory practices in keeping with the ILO Code of practice on HIV/AIDS.
ˇ Effective representation of labour unions and employers on national HIV/AIDS consultative and policy-making bodies, with a view to strengthening workplace approaches to combating HIV/AIDS".
We can all work together to make our workplaces safe and healthy.