HIV/AIDS and the world of work
In the CIS countries, 1,4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS – a 20 fold increase in 10 years. Even though the absolute number of people infected with HIV is relatively small, the growth rate of identifiable HIV cases is now one of the world’s fastest. According to ILO estimates, 80 per cent of HIV-positive individuals in the CIS countries are economically active and 75 % are under 30 years old, as compared to 33 per cent in Western Europe. The major means of HIV transmission is injecting drugs. This is due in large part to the existence of drug trafficking routes through the countries of Central Asia.
The HIV epidemic is maturing and its patterns are changing, with sexually transmitted HIV cases comprising a growing share of new diagnoses. This corresponds with the spread of the epidemic from high-risk groups (injecting drug users, commercial sex workers, etc.) to general population.
Controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS is made more difficult by inadequate health services and health and education workers who are lacking in basic training. The challenge for the countries is also to expand efforts from medical and public health interventions to the social and labour sphere, thus strengthening prevention as well as providing medical treatment.
The ILO has added a new dimension to the fight against HIV/AIDS. We talk to people at work, where they spend a large part of their lives. By providing information and education, we help workers learn about the facts and myths of HIV transmission, and understand that they have nothing to fear from casual contact with an HIV-positive co-worker. We promote HIV/AIDS prevention measures among workers and their families, including avoidance of risky behaviour and safe sex practices. We help to protect the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS and affected friends and family members. We fight discrimination and stigmatization, both within and beyond the workplace, including dismissal on the grounds of HIV status and screening of employees, and promote principles of confidentiality, privacy, and voluntary HIV testing. Through workplace action we send a strong message of hope: that people with HIV/AIDS can live actively and work productively for many years, especially with care, support and treatment, much of which can be effectively provided through the workplace.
We help governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations to:
- include HIV/AIDS related provisions in the existing labour legislation and policies; develop new HIV/AIDS laws and policies;
- actively enforce relevant laws, codes and policies;
- promote awareness, education, care, support and treatment policies at the workplace;
- become actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS through training, and awareness campaigns, also devoted to the World AIDS Day (1 December); and
- conduct research to assess socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region.
The main aim of the ILO in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is to assist the governments, workers and employers in putting in place workplace programmes to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and protect HIV-positive workers; to share with the constituents the ILO’s tools and expertise (first of all the ILO’s Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work); and to facilitate access to international financial mechanisms to provide sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.