“The world of work presents itself as an ideal place where concrete measures towards attitudinal changes, value transformation and disseminating information relating to HIV/AIDS can be successfully undertaken,” says Ms Tine Staermose, Director, ILO Office in Sri Lanka. The ILO Colombo office being a technical corporation agency seeks to enhance the capacity of employers, workers and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Manpower (MOLR&MP) to plan and implement policies and programs for prevention of HIV/AIDS in workplaces through its ILO/USDOL International HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Program.
In Sri Lanka, most of the HIV infected persons are in the 30-39 age-group, which is the most productive segment of the population. Considering this, the ILO and the MOLR&MP commenced a project in May 2005 aimed at reducing employment-related discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among workers through workplace policies & programmes, capacity building and conducting awareness campaigns. The ILO together with its project partners have successfully reached many milestones during the past few years.
In June 2004, the Government of Sri Lanka endorsed the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the World of Work. With technical support from the ILO, fourteen enterprises from hotel, manufacture and estate sectors have established HIV/AIDS policies and programmes. They have formed HIV/AIDS committees, trained trainers and peer educators, integrated HIV/AIDS education in their in-house training programmes and reached the neighboring communities through corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The project has built capacity of the MOLR&MP and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment by training nearly hundred trainers. The MOLR&MP also facilitated a National Tripartite Declaration on Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Workplaces in Sri Lanka. The Declaration endorses the guidelines of the ILO Code of Practice. By signing this Declaration, the relevant government ministries and institutions, employers’ organizations and trade unions have committed to ensure zero tolerance of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, both in the public and private sectors.
The ILO facilitated drafting a Joint Trade Union HIV/AIDS Policy, which is being finalized. Further, the ILO is a key collaborating partner in the establishment of the Sri Lanka Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.
Based on the recommendations of the MLR&MP, employers’ and workers’ organizations, the draft National AIDS Policy emphasizes the importance of strengthening HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the world of work by mobilizing the Government, Employers’ and Workers’ organizations and private sector to play a key role in this effort. Strengthening HIV/AIDS policies and programmes in the world of work has being included in the draft National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan.
The project has also built capacity of members of Lanka plus, the organisation representing people living with HIV/AIDS, in leadership and communication/counselling skills and also plans to help them in their income generating activities.
The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a sustainable National Programme on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.