Message by Juan Somavia Director-General of the ILO on the occasion of World AIDS Day -1 December 2011

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 28 November 2011

“Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths” – the ILO joins its efforts with the UN family and all who are striving to reach the zero goal.

Stigma and discrimination, prejudice and fear are the daily reality of many living with HIV. They loom large in the workplace and in the world of work. In many places AIDS has a devastating impact on the world of work.

The majority of people living with HIV are working or seeking employment. Yet persistent stigma and discrimination based on real or perceived HIV status challenge access to employment. They bring in their wake job losses and increased poverty. This discourages those living with HIV from seeking and accessing prevention, treatment, care and support. The rights and freedoms that are at the core of decent work, particularly equality in employment, social protection, and privacy and confidentiality are daily violated in the context of HIV.

Yet the workplace is a highly effective channel for reaching those of working age with prevention as well as treatment programmes for men and women workers in the formal and informal economy. And it is particularly important to protect young women and men who are often highly vulnerable.

The tripartite ILO – governments, employers and workers – in collaboration with networks of people living with HIV and AIDS, are demonstrating what can be done to help achieve the goal of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths through workplace programmes.

Ten years ago the ILO launched its Programme on HIV/AIDS and the world of work (ILO/AIDS). In addition to workplace programmes, we have made available two valuable tools to guide global action. We pioneered the 2001 ILO Code of Practice on HIV and the World of Work. Then in 2010, the International Labour Conference adopted the first international labour standard on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work (Recommendation No. 200). It provides sound guidance on addressing the issues of human rights, job security and access to health care from a workplace perspective.

Recommendation No. 200 constitutes an unequivocal commitment to tap the immense contribution that the world of work can make to curb the tide of the epidemic and has rapidly gained global resonance. In June 2011 the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) adopted a Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS which takes “into account all relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization, as well as the guidance provided by the relevant ILO recommendations, including Recommendation No. 200.”

Stigma and discrimination have no place in decent work, decent workplaces and decent societies. Let us draw on the tremendous potential of the workplace to help shape a unified response as one of the pillars of policies and strategies for zero infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Together let us make all workplaces free from stigma and discrimination.