HIV/AIDS and the world of work

Nine of every ten people living with HIV will get up today and go to work.
Juan Somavia, Former Director-General, International Labour Organization.

Nearly half a million people are living with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa, and their numbers are growing. While other parts of the world have made strides in containing the spread of the HIV/AIDS, the MENA region today has one of the fastest growing HIV rates in the world.

According to UNAIDS, the number of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa increased from 36,000 in 2001 to 75,000 in 2009, bringing the number of people living with HIV in the region to 460,000.

Reliable data remains in short supply, making it difficult to track trends with confidence, but the pandemic is spreading, particularly among the region’s youth. Nine out of ten people living with HIV/AIDS around the world are in their productive and reproductive prime, and most of them are young. HIV/AIDS weakens individuals, families, enterprises and entire communities.

The spread of HIV in the Arab States has been fuelled by poverty, unemployment, war and conflict, large population movements including refugees and migrants, gender inequality, sexual and gender-based violence including the trafficking of women, and HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination are prevalent in the region. Persons living with HIV often face repudiation at home, in the community, at work and even in the health sector.

Arab States have not yet developed coherent national policies regulating HIV and AIDS in the workplace and existing national legislation often lacks explicit provisions to safeguard against discrimination in the workplace.

The workplace offers an effective setting to promote information, education and communication on HIV and AIDS and to contribute to a national response to the HIV pandemic. HIV prevention and treatment programmes have proven to be less costly and more effective if initiated early, allowing people living with HIV to lead long, healthier and more productive lives.

ILO response to AIDS in the Arab States 

The ILO strives to mobilize, enable and assist Arab governments, workers and employers to respond appropriately and effectively to HIV and AIDS and to support the national AIDS response in each country.

This is achieved through working with tripartite partners to integrate work-related HIV/AIDS concerns into national strategic frameworks on HIV/AIDS and to facilitate the implementation of ILO Recommendation 200 concerning HIV/AIDS and the World of Work in the Arab States.

Adopted at the International Labour Conference in 2010, the new international labour standard emphasizes the role of the world of work in universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and contains provisions on potentially life-saving prevention programmes and anti-discrimination measures at the national and workplace levels. Moreover, it highlights the significance of employment and income-generating activities for workers and people living with HIV.

ILO/AIDS is a technical cooperation programme providing technical support to countries for the development, adoption and effective implementation of policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS in the world of work in accordance with the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work (2001) and Recommendation No. 200 to promote the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and gender equality. The agency also focuses on research and advisory services and mobilization and strengthening constituents’ capacities for HIV and AIDS related action, including resource mobilization.


The ultimate goal of ILO/AIDS is to achieve zero HIV-relates discrimination in the workplace and zero new HIV infections among workers. In the Arab States, this is to be achieved through a strategic approach that seeks to enable an appropriate policy framework for a comprehensive response; to provide advocacy and technical support to tripartite partners and other stakeholders; to prevent, manage and mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace in most-at-risk sectors; and to contribute to the elimination of stigma and discrimination through workplace interventions.

Strategic Priorities 

  • Research and assessment. Conduct research to provide an evidence base for an informed discussion on HIV and AIDS at the workplace as well as to identify policy gaps and workplace sectors most-at-risk.
  • Policy development. Develop national HIV and AIDS workplace policy/strategy/guideline, based on international labour standards through advocacy and technical support.
  • Capacity building. Strengthen the capacity of governments, private sector, trade union and civil society organizations including networks of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) to undertake HIV and AIDS actions in the world of work.
  • Field activities. Support the implementation of targeted initiatives responding to the needs of most-at-risk workers in key economic sectors, as well as workplace initiatives to reduce stigma and discrimination in the workplace.

ILO partners 

ILO’s tripartite partners play a critical role in combating HIV and AIDS in the workplace:

Trade Unions can advocate for the development of non-discriminatory policies that respect the rights of workers, aid in HIV prevention and provide care and support services in the workplace

Employers can implemented a comprehensive programme based on Recommendation 200.

Governments, through the Ministry of Labour, can reach vulnerable workers and cooperate with the private sector and trade unions in establishing HIV-sensitive workplace programmes.

External partners such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Tourism and civil society groups and academic institutions can play a key role in expanding workplace programmes in collaboration with ILO constituents.

ILO Recommendation No. 200 concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work 

Adopted on 16 June 2010 at the 99th Session of the International Labour Conference, ILO Recommendation No. 200 is the first international labour standard to focus specifically on HIV and AIDS and the first international legal instrument aimed at strengthening the contribution of the world of work to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Recommendation No. 200 takes a rights-based approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and contains:
  • Information which highlights the central role of the workplace in facilitating access to prevention, treatment, care and support services and the development, adoption and implementation of national tripartite workplace policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS;
  • Measures to eliminate stigma and discrimination;
  • Provisions outlining the elements to be included in designing, adopting and implementing effective prevention programmes and strategies;
  • Detailed guidelines on managing the impact of HIV by facilitating access to life saving treatment, care and support programmes for workers living with HIV, their families and dependents and;
  • Provisions on safety and health measures to be taken to prevent workers’ exposure to HIV, with particular emphasis on workers whose occupations may place them at a greater risk of exposure to HIV transmission.

Key resources

  1. The ILO and its instruments on HIV and AIDS and the world of work
  2. Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No.200)
  3. A guidance note: How best to develop a national policy on HIV and AIDS and World of Work
  4. The ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work
  5. Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 10 June 2011
  6. UN political declaration on HIV/AIDS calls for World of Work leadership
  7. Unified Arab AIDS Strategy on HIV and AIDS
  8. Riyadh Charter on HIV/AIDS


  1. Toward the development of the national policy of HIV and AIDS and the World of Work in Jordan
  2. HIV and AIDS and the World of Work in Jordan: challenges and workplace action
  3. Integrating world of work into National HIV and AIDS response