Colleagues and Friends, the HIV response calls for wide-ranging collaboration and partnerships and a united effort. In this context, the ILO greatly welcomes this initiative of the East African Business Council engaging with CEOs of businesses, National AIDS Commissions, ministries of Health, ministries of Labour, employers’ associations, business coalitions, trade unions and people living with HIV as well as Development partners.
I salute, and appreciate the fact that top leaders from the private sector have come forward today to show their commitment to the cause of HIV and to discuss ways of strengthening their response to HIV and AIDS. I note with pleasure that over 200 CEOs and their senior managers are taking an HIV test today. This is an excellent example of action-based leadership. By taking the HIV test today, and by receiving pre- and post-test HIV counselling, I am sure you will very much appreciate the merit of making HIV tests voluntary and having counselling as an essential part of it.
In addition, I would like to add a few points based on our long experience at workplaces:
It is crucial to protect the human rights of those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination is key to the success of HIV prevention and all mitigation efforts.
HIV infection is preventable. It does however call for timely action at policy, programme, implementation and monitoring levels.
The response to HIV cannot be left to the health sector only as it is not only a medical problem. It is a social, a development and economic issue as well. It can lead to serious impacts on the lives of people, their families, on enterprises, and of course on national economies. Therefore, a multi-sectoral response is needed and is essential. The world of work and the private sector have and can play a key role in this multi-sectoral response.
It is in this context that the new International Labour Standard - the ILO Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work (Recommendation No. 200), which was adopted in June 2010 with overwhelming support of the ILO constituents, is very significant. Recommendation No. 200 highlights the vital role that the world of work can play in the response to HIV and AIDS. It aims to protect human rights at work and to help sustain businesses. It is comprehensive in its scope because it covers public and private sectors, formal as well as informal sectors, and all types of contracts. It builds on and reinforces the principles of the ILO code of practice, and stresses that the world of work needs to become an integral part of HIV responses at all levels – national, regional, and international.
You, my colleagues, as CEOs, as leaders, have and can play a very important role in the HIV response by giving effect to this ILO recommendation. You can take the lead in developing an inclusive and participatory workplace policy and programme for your individual workplaces, you can cover your contractual workers as well as your supply chains, and you can partner with your national AIDS councils to set up public private partnerships.
Your workplace policy, following the principles of the ILO Recommendation, will help in reducing the all important stigma and discrimination and strengthen HIV prevention, care and support efforts at workplaces. People living with HIV (PLHIV) can work based on fitness for work and can live long and productive lives. Now, with the availability of treatment which prolongs life, all workers should and can have access to life-saving treatment. Your leadership and your action today can and will save lives, and will save businesses.
Colleagues and Friends, I must share with you that wherever HIV programmes have been successful, leadership has made the critical difference. Your leadership today will certainly go a long way in influencing your peers and strengthen the private sector engagement in the HIV response. I thank you and wish you all the best in your common efforts to march towards an AIDS free generation.