World Aids Day

ILO Director-General's remarks at the ILO's event for World Aids Day

Statement | Geneva | 28 November 2012
Dr Chan,
Dr Loures
Dr Broun
Ms McCullough
Distinguished guests

Thank you to our special guests. Thankyou all for being here today.

The good news is that collective efforts to bring an end to AIDS are paying off.

The UNAIDS report for World AIDS Day 2012 report reminds us of the progress that has been made. Just think
  • There were around 700,000 fewer new HIV infections than was the case in 2001; and as we have been reminded
  • Eight million women and men are receiving life-saving treatment

But challenges remain:

In 2011 there were still approximately 2.5 million new infections and in addition to those 8 million I mentioned above whoare actually receiving life-saving treatment, there are still 6.8 million more who need it and have to go without it.

These are the statistics, the numbers– but we know that behind the statistics are real people, real men and women – some of whom we have come to know personally –and they are struggling for life and for dignity;

There are real children are shouldering cares beyond their years, often orphaned and sometimes forced into child labour.

Colleagues, each of us, as UN agencies, as governments, representatives of employers and workers organizations who are the constituents of the ILO has a role to play in ensuring that HIV status is not a barrier to the universal human aspiration to live in dignity.

And acentral means of assuring this is – as we have been reminded - simply through a decent job – jobs and incomes, jobs with rights, jobs with voice and jobs with access to social protection.

And as others have mentioned I too want to highlight that freedom from discrimination – a fundamental principle and right at work – is a basic starting point in getting to zero.

Decent jobs also address many of the underlying vulnerabilities to HIV by reducing poverty and inequalities, empowering women and young people and providing young women and men with more stable and productive options for the future. Moreover, the workplace is a place for awareness raising, prevention and access to care.

The ILO’s own Recommendation No 200 on HIV AIDS and the World of Work, together with our Code of Practice, gives I think real guidance on making workplaces effective gateways in “Getting to zero”.

Yet, as you know so well, weare called upon to make a renewed effort to confront the HIV challenge at a most difficult time. The global crisis has squeezed the world of work even further, producing job losses that increase vulnerability and threaten the gains made. There are 30 million more jobless people in the world than at the time the crisis hit. Health, education, social protection budgets are under pressure – and we cannot afford to slip backwards.

Through this observance, the ILO, its tripartite constituents, the UNAIDS family and others, can and must reaffirm our common commitment to pursue the fight against AIDS together, with mutually reinforcing policies and action,centred on a diversity of entitlements, including jobs with income.

Today’s launch of our “Getting to Zero at work” campaign is one way of expressing this shared goal. I want to thank all UNAIDS cosponsoring agencies for agreeing to join us in this campaign which is going to run worldwide until the MDG target date in 2015 – you will see in the Colonnades a reflection of this support in the quotes on HIV and the world of work seen from the different mandates.

Colleagues, through this campaign we can also highlight the UN’s HIV workplace programme through UN Cares and a group of HIV positive colleagues - UN Plus. This shows how the UN is leading by example and gives the UN system the legitimacy,I think, to suggest,propose and to demand that member States, the labour movement, the public and the private sector doexactly the same thing.

Finally, Ithank UNAIDS for their support for our work and the WHO for the very close collaboration we have enjoyed and intend to continue in addressing HIV in the workplace.

Gelise McCullough thank you for the inspiring paintings in the exhibition that we open today. Art is a powerful medium, a great mobilizing force – and it is much needed in this cause.

And of course let me finish by thanking our own team led by Alice Ouedraogo for organizing today’s event and the campaign.

A lot is left to do.

It will be difficult, it will be complex, buttogether we can end AIDS!

The end is in sight. Let’s keep working.