Message by ILO's Director-General on World AIDS Day 2012

This World AIDS day commemoration carries a unanimous hope that the world can bring an end to AIDS.

Statement | Geneva | 01 December 2012

This World AIDS day commemoration carries a unanimous hope that the world can bring an end to AIDS. This belief is upheld by the significant progress achieved in preventing new infections and increasing access to HIV treatment, care and support.

The ILO has fully played its part in this global endeavour by promoting the understanding of AIDS as a workplace issue, mobilizing action in the world of work and strengthening the capacity of its constituents to adopt policies and sustain effective programmes.

Yes, progress has been made but challenges remain as AIDS related illnesses are still threatening the lives of many workers and those who depend on them; families, communities and enterprises. The current economic and financial crisis in many industrialized countries and the subsequent slowdown in emerging economies has resource implications for Getting to Zero. We have to protect the gains achieved while concentrating our limited resources in regions with the highest needs to maximize impact.

Today the ILO reaffirms its commitment to using the workplace as a gateway to “Getting to zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths” in close collaboration with its constituencies: governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, UNAIDS,civil society, including organizations of people living with HIV, and all development partners. The central role of our social partners facilitated by the use of social dialogue should allow the workplace policies and programmes to contribute significantly towards Getting to zero.

The ILO’s Recommendation No. 200 on HIV AIDS and the World of Work, together with our Code of Practice, provide sound guidance on workplace action in “Getting to zero”.

We are launchinga campaign on “Getting to zero at work”. Heads of UNAIDS cosponsoring agencies and the Secretariat have joined in,recognizing the vital role that the workplace plays in the global struggle to limit the spread and effects of the epidemic.

Together, we are committed to protecting the human rights of people living with HIV, including the right to work which is not only a right but an integral part of the treatment. Now, when early diagnosis and access to treatment allows millions of people living with HIV worldwide to continue to work and live long productive lives, “Getting to zero at work” assumes much more significance, particularly for the youth. Young people account for over 40% of new HIV infections globally each year. These figures tell us that while we must ensure decent jobs for young people we must also strongly advocate that a positive HIV status should not be a barrier to accessing employment.

“Getting to zero”is also about addressing gender inequalities. In addition to the burden of caring for people living with HIV,women experience violence and economic inequalities that make them more vulnerable economically and challenge their access to health services. The involvement of men is critical in these efforts to promote responsible behaviour in sexual and reproductive healthand to eradicate violence against women.

The recent UNAIDS report ‘Together we can end AIDS’is encouraging. Protecting the most productive segment of society should be at the heart ofthe response if we want to end AIDS.

Let’s join hands in ‘Getting to Zero at work’.