Care and HIV and AIDS

The HIV pandemic is a major additional factor that is overwhelming already inadequate health care systems in a number of countries. Over 50 percent of hospital beds in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are occupied by people with HIV-related illnesses, for instance. In addition to inadequate staffing levels, long hours and violence, health care workers, in providing care to patients with HIV and AIDS, can also be at risk from transmission, especially where basic rules of occupational safety and health are not implemented. The greater workload resulting from the epidemic, the fear of infection, and the lack of adequate safety and health provisions or HIV- and AIDS-specific training mean that health care workers suffer enormous psychological and physical stress.

Yet most HIV and AIDS patients are cared for at home. Women and girls bear most of the burden of care given their traditional domestic and nurturing roles. This not only adds to their workload, it undermines the vital productive, reproductive and community roles they play. For instance, women may have to leave paid work or stop their education to care for sick relatives.

The HIV pandemic has become one of the most critical workplace issues of our time. In addition to its devastating impact on working women and men and their families and dependents, HIV affects the world of work in many ways. Stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS threatens fundamental rights at work, undermining opportunities for people to obtain decent work and sustainable employment.

In partnership with ILO constituents, UNAIDS and its cosponsors, donors, people living with HIV and other actors, ILO/AIDS is working to develop and implement policies and programmes to protect workers from HIV infection and facilitate equal access to care, treatment and support and social protection for all those who are living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.