Governments: Ministries of Labour

“Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS is a key priority in the Ministry of Labour”
Mr. Trevor Thomas, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Guyana

“With the help of the International Labour Organization and the National AIDS Control Organization, it is the first time that we are developing a national policy on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.”

Mr. S. K. Srivastava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, India

“When I was first appointed as Director of Health and Safety and counterpart to the project, very little was happening regarding HIV/AIDS. The capacity of the Ministry, especially labour inspectors, was very minimal. However, the ILO project has managed to train our inspectors and I am proud that we have now incorporated HIV/AIDS into the labour inspectors’ checklist.’’

Ms Ntseketsi Mohale, Director Occupational Health and Safety, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Lesotho

Building a multisectoral response: Working with ministries of Labour

Governments are at the frontline of the HIV/AIDS response. Strong political commitment is essential to the success of any HIV programme. With their overall responsibility for the national workforce and labour legislation, ministries of Labour can play a key role in national HIV/AIDS responses.

The integration of HIV/AIDS responses into the administration, structures and programmes of ministries of Labour brings the double advantage that HIV/AIDS interventions are informed and supported by experienced officials as well as rooted in structures that can be sustained over the longer term. Their actions include:

  • Taking the lead in developing national HIV/AIDS workplace legislation and policies in collaboration with employers’ and workers’ organizations and national AIDS programmes;
  • Integrating HIV/AIDS into training programmes of the ministry and its institutions to reach employers, unions, labour inspectors, labour judges, occupational safety and health officials, etc.;
  • Incorporating HIV/AIDS training within workers’ education, vocational training/apprenticeship, skills development and migrants workers programmes;
  • Ensuring that government programmes promoting gender equality, women’s entrepreneurship, youth employment, and the elimination of child labour take HIV/AIDS into account and address related issues;
  • Making sure that the social protection systems in place addresses vulnerabilities which could put workers more at risk of becoming infected and do not discriminate against people living with HIV and their family members;
  • Integrating HIV/AIDS training into small-enterprise development and cooperative-development programmes while ensuring that micro-finance schemes do not discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS.

The government is the largest employer in many countries. HIV/AIDS creates extra demand for many public services, especially health and social services. Not only are many hospitals overwhelmed, but so are orphanages, social security schemes, and the education system. HIV/AIDS policies and programmes need to be developed and implemented to ensure access to employees of public services to HIV prevention, care and support.

In addition to the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and its Education and Training Manual, the ILO has developed a number of policy guidelines and tools to support the ministries of Labour in their initiatives including: