Dr S. K. Kisting: Dear Colleagues and dear Friends, my name is Dr. Sophia Kisting, I am Director of the ILO Programme on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work. I am delighted to present the Joint WHO-ILO-UNAIDS policy guidelines on improving health workers’ access to HIV and TB prevention, treatment, care and support services. The ILO and WHO have a long history of collaboration, and both are cosponsors of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. By combining the ILO’s world of work expertise, WHO’s health expertise and with the support of health workers from all regions, we have come up with these guidelines which ideally, thanks to the extensive reach of UNAIDS, should help about 60 millions of health workers across the globe. These workers are of direct concern to my colleague Elizabeth Tinoco, who is Director of the ILO Sectoral Activities Department.
E. Tinoco: Thank you Sophia. The contribution of health workers towards creating and keeping a healthy society can never be overemphasized. They have made, and continue to make a significant contribution in caring for and providing treatment for TB as well as HIV and AIDS. However, their own health is equally important and often overlooked. We often wonder who really cares for the care givers. Health workers are exposed to occupational health hazards, especially to HIV and tuberculosis, in formal and also in informal healthcare settings. It is their right to receive appropriate training and access to services in order to protect themselves from occupational exposure, and then be able to work as long as they are fit to do so. Health workers have a right to a decent work in safe and healthy work environment. For this reason, WHO, the ILO and UNAIDS joined hands to develop these guidelines, which provide principles for developing policies and programmes to enhance health workers’ access to HIV and TB prevention, treatment, care and support services.
Dr S. K. Kisting: These guidelines build on the comprehensive international labour standard - the new ILO Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (in short: ILO Recommendation 200). It was adopted by an overwhelming majority of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations in June 2010 at the ILO’s International Labour Conference here in Geneva. ILO Recommendation 200 covers workers in all sectors, in the public and the private sector as well as the formal and informal economies. It provides for protection of human rights at work, for the elimination of stigma and discrimination associated with real or perceived HIV status, and for strengthening HIV prevention and care in the world of work. It calls for the effective integration of workplace actions into HIV responses at the global, the regional and the national levels, as well as for the development of workplace policies at the national, sectoral as well as the enterprise levels. It also highlights the need to address HIV and TB co-infection, the co-morbidity and the co-mortality. All these provisions are critically important for the health sector as a whole, and are therefore covered in these Joint policy guidelines.
E. Tinoco: The policy guidelines promote decent and safe working conditions for health workers and their right to be protected from occupational exposure to HIV and Tuberculosis while delivering services to patients.
The new guidelines are foreseen to guide governments, employers’ organizations, trade unions as well as health administrators through practical steps to make healthcare settings safer and healthier. Work place policies based on the new ILO Recommendation 200, and the previously developed ILO-WHO joint guidelines on health services will be an essential step forward. Often minor changes in practices can significantly improve the working conditions of health workers.
Dr S. K. Kisting: We appeal to you, decision makers and colleagues from the health and the labour sectors, to take ownership of these guidelines and include all health workers - not only our doctors and nurses, but also traditional midwives, laboratory technicians, waste disposal workers, cooks, laundry workers and security guards, amongst others - to participate in the development and the implementation of programmes at workplaces. We thank you for your all important contribution to help ensure that health and safety of health workers are protected while a good service is provided by them to the public. We thank you.
E. Tinoco: Thank you.