In Cameroon, the fight to combat HIV/AIDS extends to the workplace. It started in the mid-nineties when the aluminium company, Alucam launched an HIV/AIDS prevention programme.
A new report from the International Labour Organization says nine out of ten people living with HIV/AIDS globally are of working age. In Cameroon this accounts for nearly six per cent of the population.
Dr. Bernard Montagut heads Alucam’s HIV/AIDS programme. He runs a medical clinic, which took part in a highly successful international trial of antiretroviral drugs. Today members of staff receive free treatment and condoms are freely available.
The doctor also works with a team of Alucam volunteers who raise awareness among staff and the local community about AIDS.
Dr. Bernard Montagut, head of Alucam medical clinic (in French)
First we educate them about HIV/AIDs; we don’t just show up and take blood samples. We inform them and then we offer them a free test. Today we can confidently say that we have practically covered all the workers in Alucam.
The programme is a success and GICAM, the leading employers’ organization in Cameroon, has taken up Alucam’s example.
Mr. Protais Ayangma, vice-president of GICAM (in French)
The most important resource in a business is its staff, so AIDS was hitting where it hurt most and cost most, especially with management and young workers.
Using the ILO’s ‘code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work’, GICAM has helped 183 Cameroon-based enterprises, such as Toyota, adopt an HIV/AIDS action plan.
Pape Beye, senior employer specialist, ILO Cameroon (in French)
We have educated companies to understand that the fight against AIDS is a management process like any other. A plan of action to fight AIDS has to be approached from a management level.
The ILO is now using Cameroon’s experience to develop a similar approach in enterprises across the region.
As well as working to bring a sustained changed of behaviour among staff, such long-term workplace programmes send a message of hope: that women and men with HIV/AIDS can continue to live and work productively for many years.