AIDS

AIDS can no longer be considered as purely a medical problem. Two thirds of the nearly 36 million people infected with HIV are in their most productive years and the implications for the global work force are immense. Because of this, the workplace might just be the best place to deal a crushing blow to the spread of AIDS. ILO Television reports...

Date issued: 12 February 2001 | Size/duration: 00:02:42 (4.45 MB)

AIDS can no longer be considered as purely a medical problem. Two thirds of the nearly 36 million people infected with HIV are in their most productive years and the implications for the global work force are immense. Because of this, the workplace might just be the best place to deal a crushing blow to the spread of AIDS. ILO Television reports.

AIDS has traveled beyond the borders of medical concern and into the world of work. While scientists seek a cure, the AIDS virus seeks out the most productive members of society. Nearly two thirds of those infected with HIV are between 15 and 49 years old.

Miners in South Africa face one of the highest infection rates among workers. Young men like Moeketsi Mfihleng live in all-male hostels near the mines. Separated from their families for months, they may visit local hot spots for sex. AIDS is not on their minds.

Do you ever talk about AIDS here at the mine? No. Do you think anyone has AIDS here at the mine? No, no one has AIDS at the mine.

Some South African mining companies are taking action against AIDS. At Anglogold, HIV- infected workers receive company health care and counseling as they would for any other serious disease. They may continue to work as long as they are medically fit.

Do you ever talk about AIDS here at the mine? No. Do you think anyone has AIDS here at the mine? No, no one has AIDS at the mine.

Some South African mining companies are taking action against AIDS. At Anglogold, HIV- infected workers receive company health care and counseling as they would for any other serious disease. They may continue to work as long as they are medically fit.

Dr. Colin Eisenstein, Anglogold, Ltd.

“I mean, you cannot be productive if you’re ill. And whether its HIV or pneumonia or whatever type of disease that may affect a person in their working career, how can you possibly go down a mine in a state of ill health and be productive?”

Goldfields, along with the National Union of Mineworkers, runs an on-site AIDS clinics and miners are trained to counsel their fellow workers about the spread of HIV. The International Labour Organization encourages partnerships like this to fight AIDS in the workplace and has created a Code of Practice to help businesses and communities manage the disease.

Assane Diop, Executive Director, ILO

“It is the mandate of the ILO to take the lead in social protection, in the fight against discrimination and protecting people, etc., but equally from the point of view of its constituents, with the ILO we have the workers, the employers and the governments. Therefore you really have what it takes together, in the workplace, to make a frontal and decisive attack on the problem of AIDS.”

Mercy Makhalemele lost her job when it was known she had HIV. She fights discrimination against workers with AIDS talking at the community level and through model projects like the Zulu Youth Orchestra to increase community awareness.

Mercy Makhalemele

“This township is going to be a model that could be copied by the townships and I'm born here, I grew up here, I'm going to introduce one of the models to pilot for a year and see how far it goes”.

Mercy’s very personal campaign may one day become a public victory in the fight against AIDS.