PHNOM PENH (ILO News) – The International Labour Office (ILO) and Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSLAVY) today pledged to jointly raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and prevent related discrimination in the workplace.
By 2020, HIV/AIDS is expected to cause a 10- to 30-per cent reduction in the labour force in high prevalence countries, according to the ILO. In Cambodia, over 90 per cent of all reported HIV cases are in the 15-49 age group, which is the most productive segment of society in economic terms.
"The loss of skilled workers and managers today threatens the capacity of nations to deliver essential goods and services tomorrow," said Gunnar Walzholz, Specialist on HIV/AIDS at the ILO’s Subregional Office for East Asia. "HIV/AIDS is threatening future generations because it forces children to leave school in order to care for family members or provide income – and in rural areas it is breaking down traditional systems of social learning that pass skills and knowledge from generation to generation."
Walzholz said that without planning to protect or manage human resources, HIV/AIDS threatens sustainable development. "Companies that do not have an HIV/AIDS management system in place, may face productivity losses due to workplace conflict. It is important for managers and workers to understand that people living with HIV can work and pose no risk to their colleagues." He also stressed that companies that implemented HIV/AIDS workplace programmes were increasingly rewarded with a positive public image.
The agreement between MOSALVY and the ILO, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), includes a vow to improve implementation of the Cambodian HIV/AIDS Law and the Ministry’s Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS in accordance with the internationally-recognized ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work.
This includes a technical cooperation project called, ‘HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme’, financed by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), to be executed by the ILO in collaboration with national authorities. The Programme has a budget of 430,000 USD and is being implemented over a three-year period.
The ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work provides practical guidance to governments, employers and workers, as well as other stakeholders, for developing national and workplace policies and programmes to combat the spread of HIV and mitigate its impact.
It covers the key areas of prevention, protection of workers’ rights, and care and support. The ILO is implementing a wide range of initiatives based on the Code of Practice, including advisory services for governments in integrating HIV/AIDS into labour legislation, capacity building for employers and workers to implement workplace programmes on HIV/AIDS, and the production of information and training materials, including an exchange of best practices.
The key components of an effective workplace response are policies to counter stigma and discrimination; ongoing formal and informal HIV/AIDS prevention (particularly through peer education); promotion and distribution of condoms; voluntary and confidential counselling and testing; and access to diagnosis and treatment of sexually-transmitted infections and AIDS-related illnesses.