XVIII International AIDS Conference, Vienna 2010

Multistakeholder Workplace Partners Forum cements the resolve of ILO constituents and partners to implement new international labour standard on HIV and AIDS worldwide!

News | 26 July 2010

Vienna (ILO News) – ILO constituents and workplace partners gathered on 17 July 2010 in Vienna at the International AIDS Conference further committed themselves to promote the recently adopted HIV and AIDS Recommendation and support its implementation worldwide. About a hundred stakeholders from all regions of the globe and from many different countries attended the ILO’s Workplace Partners Forum resolved to build a strong and harmonized world of work response to HIV, with a strong focus on prevention for all modes of transmission and the reduction of stigma and discrimination for persons living with and affected by HIV.

High-level speakers opening the event underscored the need for coordinated actions in the world of work for the implementation of the new international labour standard. Addressing all stakeholders, Dr Sophia Kisting, Director of the ILO Programme on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, described its outstanding potential, if implemented consistently and owned by all workers, to bring about - in the world of work - the “Prevention Revolution” called for by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

Dr Kisting said, “The wide-ranging provisions of the HIV and AIDS Recommendation and its emphasis not only on reaching workers, but also their families and their dependants in prevention and impact mitigation efforts, places the workplace and the world of work at the heart of national strategies on AIDS. The structures of workplaces provide unique opportunities for stimulating a greater people-centered Prevention Revolution.” She indicated that the new labour standard further underscores the importance of having a job and underscores the all important issue of employment generation and sustainable livelihoods for persons affected by HIV.

Ms Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, emphasized the flexibility of the new labour standard, which affords protection to vast populations without losing sharp focus on those most in need: “The Recommendation is an invaluable instrument to meet UNAIDS priorities. It strikes a balance between the development of national HIV/AIDS legislation and policies to create an enabling and conducive work environment, and specific targeted action which focuses on vulnerable groups and at-risk populations.” She highlighted the important role of the HIV and AIDS Workplace Programme for UN staff - UN Cares.

Dr Christoforos Mallouris, Director of programmes for the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), also called upon his fellow stakeholders to use of the Recommendation for the protection of the fundamental rights of HIV-positive workers. Surveys conducted recently by GNP+ in several countries in different parts of the globe have shown that many people living HIV have lost their jobs because of their HIV status. This is a most disturbing trend and will require concerted and harmonized action to meaningfully address it. Dr Mallouris commented: “Violations of rights in the workplace are not only loss of work, but also forced disclosure”.

The need to address stigma and discrimination in the workplace was central to the address delivered by Ms Eva-Elisabeth Szymanski, Head of the Department of Labour Law and Central Labour Inspection for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection. She emphasized the important role of the Ministry of Labour and assured participants of the pro-active and supportive stance taken by the Ministry in Austria to address workplace related HIV and AIDS concerns.

Stakeholders involved in the world of work response to HIV exchanged in small groups and in plenary on how to take steps forward both individually and collectively at the enterprise, national, regional and global levels for the application of the new standard in the public and private sector and in the formal and informal economy.

Three major steps were identified to meet the urgency to translate ILO Recommendation No. 200 into action. ILO member States will decide within one year of the adoption of the HIV and AIDS Recommendation (17 June 2010) how to give effect to the recommendation. The ILO constituents and partners agreed at the Workplace Partners Forum that they will have a central role to play to make change happen.

Multistakeholder partnerships to tackle HIV, in the spirit initiated by the Forum, will be the key to success. Mr Patrick Obath, Chairperson of the Federation of Kenya Employers and Representative of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), declared: “Successful management of HIV and AIDS in enterprises within the context of the new Recommendation will require to build bridges between the enterprise, the employees, the families, the community in which it operates the government and all relevant stakeholders”.

Most efficient implementation will also come from cultivating what stakeholders in the world of work response to HIV already do best. They will need to reinvent their response to HIV by sharing their good practices, and building on the specificity of their own networks.

Ms Jan Eastman, Chairperson of the Global Unions AIDS Programme [which represents the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC), and Global Union Federations (GUFs)] and Deputy General Secretary of Education International (EI), declared: “We intend to work with renewed vigor and hope, with our members, with employers, with governments and others to optimize the potential of this Recommendation for positive change.”

The Workplace Partners Forum marked the launch of the implementation phase of the new international labour standard adopted one month earlier, on 17 June 2010, and with an overwhelming majority, at the 99th International Labour Conference. The HIV and AIDS Recommendation is the first international human rights instrument to focus on the issue in the world of work. It affords comprehensive coverage to all workers and their dependants, including armed forces and uniform services, job seekers and applicants, laid-off and suspended workers, in the face of HIV and AIDS, in all sectors of the economy. It contains specific provisions protecting gender equality, reproductive health and rights, the respect of rights regardless of sexual orientation and emphasizes the important role of social protection. An estimated 20,000 delegates and participants from the public attended the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this year.