ILO says Caribbean rising to the challenge of HIV and AIDS in the world of work

New programmes designed to step up action against HIV/AIDS in the workplace are becoming increasingly common in the Caribbean, according to a new ILO report citing recent developments in Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago

News | 15 May 2008

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (ILO News) – New programmes designed to step up action against HIV/AIDS in the workplace are becoming increasingly common in the Caribbean, according to a new report to be issued by the International Labour Office (ILO).

Five Caribbean states- Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – have worked with the ILO’s SHARE (Strategic HIV/AIDS Responses in Enterprises) project to put into place policies and programmes addressing discrimination and behaviour change in and through the workplace.

Ministries of Labour, as well as employers and workers and their organizations from the region, play leading roles in initiating action on HIV/AIDS in the workplace, according to the ILO’s report “Saving lives, protecting jobs”.

The report will be launched in Barbados along with a companion film entitled “Creating change” that will make its world premiere on 20 May 2008. The film features success stories from SHARE project countries around the world.

The report highlights the progress being made in implementation of HIV workplace policies and programmes at the enterprise and national levels in the 24 countries covered by the project.

Among the Caribbean stories highlighted in the report are the following:

-In Barbados, several large corporations have pledged US$ 150,000 in-cash and in-kind to the AIDS Foundation for the next three years to build the capacity of this business coalition responsible for coordinating the private sector response to HIV/AIDS in the country and to support companies in HIV workplace initiatives.

-In Belize, the Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development is now playing a leading role in coordinating the workplace response as a result of the SHARE project. Working hand in hand with national partners, the project paved the way for the development of a national tripartite workplace policy on HIV and helped formulate the workplace components of the Belize National Policy on HIV/AIDS.

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is one of the 650 workplaces partnering with SHARE around the world and the largest employer in Guyana. Its 17,500 staff members join the ranks of the estimated million workers benefiting from the ILO interventions financed by the United States Department of Labor and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Along with 17 other enterprises collaborating with the project in Guyana, GuySuCo has adopted an HIV/AIDS workplace policy and offers HIV services to workers and managers.

A key output of the project in Jamaica has been the successful transition from donor-funded activities to a national programme. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has developed a Voluntary HIV/OSH Workplace Compliance Programme managed by the Occupational Safety and Health Department that has scaled up the work of the ILO SHARE project. Over 25 enterprises have signed up since the launch of the national programme in November 2007. In addition, the National Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists (NAHC) has sensitized 90 per cent of its 500 members to share information on HIV and AIDS and support behaviour change with clients and staff through peer education.

In Trinidad and Tobago the National Barbering Association uses on-site theatre productions to stimulate discussions among clients and barbers. Follow-up sessions will be organized to strengthen the skills of the 160 barbers already trained. Barber’s aprons with HIV/AIDS messages, as well as posters, are used to continue spreading HIV prevention messages. One of the key outputs of the project has been the Government’s recent adoption of a National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS. The Policy was launched on 14 April 2008 with inputs from key stakeholders.

In addition, the report found a marked improvement in six pilot countries – Belize, Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Guyana and Togo – over the last four years in attitudes of workers towards people living with HIV/AIDS. The proportion of workers who reported supportive behaviour towards co-workers living with HIV rose from 49 per cent to 63 per cent on average during the life of the SHARE programme. In addition, the percentage of workers who reported using condoms with non-regular partners rose from 74 per cent to 84 per cent. In Belize, the proportion of workers who reported a positive attitude towards condom use increased from 52.7 per cent to 72 per cent.

The recorded changes in behaviour could be attributed in part to increased access to HIV services in enterprises in all six countries. At the start of SHARE in 2003, only 14 per cent of the participating enterprises in the six pilot countries had written HIV policies. When the impact survey was conducted 76 per cent of the participating enterprises had written HIV policies in place. In Guyana, all the 18 partner enterprises have incorporated at least the 5 key principles of the ILO HIV/AIDS Code of Practice in their written policy including, non-discrimination, no mandatory testing, medical confidentiality, universal precautions and access to education. Moreover, 78per cent of the partner enterprises in Guyana allocated official working hours to HIV/AIDS education during the last six months.

New film and report highlight the role of the world of work in the global response to the HIV epidemic.

The film “Creating change” will premiere on 20 May 2008 during the ILO Sub-regional Interactive Learning Event on HIV/AIDS Behaviour Change Communication for the workplace organized by SHARE at Divi Southwinds, Bridgetown, Barbados. The film will be preceded by a presentation of the HIV/AIDS policy and programme of Purity Bakeries from Barbados and will be followed by a discussion with representatives from the Ministry of Labour, employers’ and workers’ organizations from the region.

The film and the report are available on-line at the ILO-AIDS web site www.ilo.org/aids. For an in-depth QandA on the SHARE report and HIV/AIDS in the world of work, see:

/global/About_the_ILO/Media_and_public_information/Feature_stories/lang--en/WCMS_092034/index.htm

For further information, please consult or contact the ILO’s Information Officer at the ILO Subregional Office for the Caribbean: Roma Wong Sang (868) 623-7178, Ext. 412.