India: Ending the Stigma of HIV/AIDS for Construction Workers

In India, construction is one of the fastest growing sectors engaging a large number of migrant workers from across the country. With little knowledge about HIV, and culturally and socially isolated in India’s big cities, migrant workers are especially vulnerable to HIV infection. Informal workers, including migrant workers, make up 93 per cent of India’s 400 million-plus workforce. How to tackle discrimination towards workers with HIV and help prevent the spread of HIV have become a national priority, with the adoption of a national policy on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.

Date issued: 17 June 2010 | Size/duration: 00:03:14 (11.13 MB)

Khursheed Alam Baig is a construction worker. To support his family he migrated to India’s city of skyscrapers, Mumbai.

Khursheed Alam Baig, Construction Worker

My life was going well. But suddenly I fell ill..all my dreams came crashing down. Even my family looked down on me.

Khursheed is one of over 3.5 per cent of migrant workers in India living with HIV. Not only do they face stigma at home but also at work.

Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to HIV infection. Most have never heard of the illness. Many move alone to the big cities, are culturally and socially isolated, and commercial sex is easily available.

In 2001 the International Labour Organization began working with the government, trade unions and employers across India to tackle HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue. These efforts have contributed to the adoption of a national HIV/AIDS workplace policy.

Sanjay Kumar Srivastava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, India

Along with ILO and our National AIDS control organization, which we call NACO, this is the first time the government of India, the Labour Ministry is developing a national workplace policy.

Khursheed is back on the construction site with a new assignment. He and other HIV positive workers have been trained by the state labour union as outreach workers to spread awareness about HIV.

Knowledge is a first step towards ending fear and stigma towards those with HIV. It’s also key to help prevent the spread of the illness.

Khursheed explains how to protect oneself with condoms freely available from the union.

(Khursheed Alam Baig talking to a group of construction workers)

Just like we use an umbrella during the rain, we can use a condom to protect ourselves against HIV.

The union was also able to mobilize support from builders and contractors for organizing health camps where construction workers can seek treatment and confidential testing.

Mahatre, Building contractor

I am happy that workers are now particular about health. If other builders can do this too, it could improve things for the workers.

With improved access to quality HIV treatment people like Khursheed can continue to lead productive working lives.

Khursheed Alam Baig

As my medication started, I regained my health. I am now able to work and live my life just like I did before.

Being diagnosed with HIV is not the end of the road. But there is still a lot to be done to end stigma and discrimination, and provide rights to workers with HIV.

In India, this reality has been acknowledged with the adoption of a national HIV/AIDS workplace policy.