Background:According to estimates, 30 per cent of people living with HIV in Ukraine don’t know their HIV positive status. HIV testing is free and available in AIDS centres, and in many primary medical healthcare centres, as a result of the current health care reform.
The ILO is implementing VCT@WORK since December 2014, which started in the Cherkassy region, in collaboration with the regional Federation of Trade Unions, the employers’ organization and the local authorities.
In 2015, women and men workers from six pilot workplaces were tested, those who tested positive were referred to the AIDS Centre. This was the first such effort in Ukraine. While HIV testing campaigns are implemented among groups of people most at risk, and among the general population in public places, but for workplaces it was not yet a practice.
After this successful regional approach, the ILO extended the VCT@WORK in the maritime sector, in partnership with the trade unions in 2017.
Salient features of the strategy:The ILO’s advocacy campaign was based on ILO’s Recommendation n°200 and report on “The impact of HIV and AIDS on the world of work: Global Estimates”. Encouraging women and men workers to undergo VCT for HIV was complementary to Ukraine’s efforts to stop HIV in the general population and help achieve UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. Over the last couple of years these efforts focused on the maritime sector. The most representative maritime sector trade union, the Maritime Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (representing more than 80,000 women and men workers - of which 45,000 are seafarers) requested ILO’s assistance to address HIV at work and the ILO responded to this request.
This assistance included awareness-raising, capacity-building, advocacy and organization of VCT events. The peculiarity of ILO’s approach was to pool complementary resources. The union procured some HIV rapid tests and ILO engaged a trained and authorized provider to offer HIV testing services to workers. In 2018, the ILO offered training to the union workers and its affiliates in Odessa and developed a VCT@WORK poster campaign. In 2019, the ILO expanded the programme with support from UNAIDS.
- Both the Maritime Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine and the Primary Seafarer’s Union of Ukraine adopted an HIV workplace programme aimed at reducing HIV stigma and discrimination, and promoting VCT.
- Over 2016- and 2018 some 1,000 seafarers, port workers, other maritime sector workers and cadets of maritime sector educational institutions took an HIV test during their training activities. More than 10,000 men and women participants raised their awareness on HIV.
- Communication materials were developed and disseminated; the activities were highlighted in sectoral newspapers, magazine, web-sites as well as shared with the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF).
- These concrete results featured in the ILO’s Centenary Global Tour Event, broadcasted on 11th of April 2019. The Union was represented by the HIV Focal Point Ms. Elina Karavan and Captain Vadym Mundriyevskiy who shared their views on HIV prevention at the workplace in general and on VCT@Work in particular.
- The good will and commitment of the Union’s management was key to the success of the joint Union/ILO activities. The Deputy Chairman of the Union participated in the VCT@Work Poster Campaign with a strong message of “Take the test today and keep sailing” which motivated other Union members to find out their HIV status during joint events with the ILO.
- The Union’s affiliation to the global ITF was also an important asset: ITF has a strong global commitment to addressing HIV and it supported their Ukraine affiliates.
- Capacity building and advocacy for HIV testing will continue to reach more seafarers and port workers in Odessa and Izmail port town.
- The ILO is exploring possibility to replicate the same programme in other sectors.