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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

World AIDS Day, 2006: Union Action to Combat the Pandemic

Posted to the IUF website 27-Nov-2006

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On December 1, World AIDS Day, the IUF highlights the enormous gap between the various intergovernmental promises of universal prevention, care and treatment for AIDS sufferers and the slow pace of progress. According to UN sources, an estimated 39.5 million people are now living with HIV. There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006. Sixty-five percent of these occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, with important increases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where rates of infection have risen by more than half since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

The vast majority of the dead and infected are workers. For the IUF, HIV/AIDS is a worker and a workplace issue. Unions can and must respond to the devastating impact of the virus by mobilizing politically to hold governments to their human rights commitments, and through collective bargaining with employers and negotiations in other fora to ensure adequate training and preventive measures and protection against discrimination for those infected with the virus.

The IUF incorporates HIV/AIDS awareness-raising into its trade union development, education and health and safety activities at national, regional and international levels, and participates with other international union organizations in the Global HIV/AIDS Program aimed at expanding and strengthening union networks to fight the pandemic.

At the workplace, IUF priorities include encouraging and developing union action to combat discrimination against workers infected with HIV/AIDS, securing gender equality in accessing HIV/AIDS information and promoting education, care and support for infected and affected workers.

A growing number of IUF affiliates have concluded collective bargaining agreements with employers agreeing to workplace HIV/AIDS policies and programs based on the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work (copies of collective agreements are available on request from the secretariat).

During the year 2006, the IUF and affiliates made further commitments and adopted HIV/AIDS action plans:

  • In February a sub- regional seminar for training HIV/AIDS educators took place in Niamey, Niger, with participants from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo. Follow-up activities are now being implemented in each of these countries, with a forthcoming sub-regional workshop to focus on HIV/AIDS and migration. Affiliates have prepared thousands of brochures, posters, T-shirts and stickers for awareness-raising work around World Aids Day. In West Africa, many IUF affiliates will be taking part in demonstrations planned by national centers, women's groups and other social organizations to highlight the need for action on HIV/AIDS, The IUF African Regional Conference held in July in Lusaka, Zambia, endorsed the HIV/AIDS policy document and action plan adopted at the African Regional Women�s Workshop. The action plan is now an integral part of regional project activities. A training workshop for 16 women trade union educators from affiliates in Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe was held in Johannesburg, South Africa September 17-22. A second union training workshop on health and safety, including HIV/AIDS, will be held in Burkina Faso December 11-15.

  • The IUF Caribbean Regional Conference held in Antigua 14-15 September resolved to further develop union programs addressing HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue.

  • In Latin America, HIV/AIDS in the agricultural and tourism sectors was one of the main themes of the Women's Conference preceding the Regional Conference held September 2-6 in the Dominican Republic. Union HIV/AIDS activities will be now be included in future regional projects.

  • In India, 2 workshops will be held - for the first time - in December for members in the plantation and agricultural sectors.

The IUF and its affiliates are committed to winning universal access to free treatment for all HIV/AIDS sufferers and an end to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination at the workplace. Unions have a vital contribution to make in halting the spread of the pandemic, but unions can play their part only where the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively with employers is fully respected. Rights are indivisible: the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus shows how closely interlinked are the rights to life, health, and freedom of association.