Caring for miners: Coal India Limited promotes VCT@WORK in India

News | 25 September 2017
Coal India Limited (CIL) is the largest public sector coal company in India. It has seven coal producing subsidiaries and a mine planning/consultancy company spread over eight states of India. Operating through 82 mining areas, the company has around 314,000 employees, plus a large number of contractual workers.

A long standing partner of the ILO’s HIV and AIDS workplace programme in India, CIL is engaged in HIV and AIDS workplace programme in all locations since 2008. The company has developed an HIV and AIDS workplace policy and has trained a cadre of master trainers on HIV and AIDS with the help of the ILO.

Recognizing the need to expand HIV testing amongst its employees and contractual workers who are often migrants from neighboring states, the CIL has developed voluntary counselling and HIV testing programme.

Now, CIL is one of the lead companies engaged in the ILO’s global VCT@WORK Initiative. CIL presented its work and experiences at a national workshop organized by the ILO, NACO and the Ministry of Labour and Employment on the theme of Fast Track VCT@WORK in November 2016.

Salient features of the strategy:

An orientation and work-planning meeting on VCT@WORK was organized on 24-25 August 2015 by the CIL and ILO involving the HIV nodal officers and HIV master trainers of the company.

Key elements of the strategy adopted in the meeting were:

a) Strengthen the capacity of master trainers and peer educators to promote voluntary HIV testing;

b) Engage unions through the Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INMF) for mobilizing workers to seek HIV information and access voluntary HIV counselling and testing;

c) Enhance access to HIV testing in and around coal mines in collaboration with the respective state AIDS control societies; and

d) Cover contractual workers and their families working around the mining sites as part of the HIV and AIDS policy as well as the company’s corporate social responsibility policy.

HIV awareness and testing event at Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, Odissa. MCL is one of the eight subsidiaries of CIL in India.

Results:

Between August 2015 and December 2016:

- Over 400 master trainer and peer educators trained by the ILO created demand for HIV testing in and around mining areas using the communication materials developed by the ILO, NACO and ministry of labour under the Earlier, the Better campaign.

- Following a public-private partnership approach, the company set up seven Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTC) across its eight subsidiaries in collaboration with NACO and state AIDS control societies. The centres were opened to contractual workers as well as communities around the company sites.

- A total of 29,580 employees and their dependants (22387 male and 7193 female) accessed HIV counselling and testing. 141 tested positive for HIV (120 male and 21 female). All have been put on anti-retroviral treatment by the company.

- A total of 6952 contractual workers (5001 males and 1951 female) accessed HIV counselling and testing. 8 were tested positive and were referred to access anti-retroviral treatment at government’s health centres.

Lessons Learned:

1. VCT@WORK works better when it is inbuilt into an existing HIV and AIDS workplace progrmame.

2. Master trainers coming from the medical, the human resource department as well as unions played a key role in promoting HIV counselling and testing.

3. Having HIV counselling and testing centers (ICTCs) at the workplaces, and opening them to contractual workers as well as communities worked very well. Workers were able to access services close to their work sites rather than having to go miles.

4. Involvement of coal sector union such as INMF was found very useful. Workers felt reassured of protection of their rights with the engagement of union and the human resource department who worked hand in hand in the initiative.

5. Management commitment, reflected through the effective dissemination of company’s policy and presence in important events, also played an important role to the success of the Initiative.

Next Steps:

• CIL, ILO and NACO have decided to expand the number of Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTC) particularly in the northern and eastern regions.
• CIL is planning to offer multi-disease testing to its employees and contractual workers in order to de-stigmatize HIV testing and promote a wider wellness approach in the company.