Supporting workers living with HIV with social protection and making them productive workforce members crucial to the Decent Work Agenda

Opening remarks by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi at the "Sensitization programme on National AIDS programme for medical officers of Employees' State Insurance Corporation"

Statement | New Delhi, India | 28 September 2022
Namaste and Good Morning!

I am pleased to be in the meeting today together with NACO and ESIC. This meeting brings together the synergies between the two organizations of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Labour and Employment.

ILO has had the opportunity to provide technical support to both the organizations for leveraging upon their respective strengths.

As the lead UN agency for HIV and AIDS in the world of work and private sector engagement, ILO has been working closely with the Government, Employers’ and Workers’ organizations, People Living with HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS and other UN agencies and State AIDS Control Societies, since the year 2000- that is since the Phase-II of the National AIDS Control Programme in India.

We have had the opportunity to together create and contribute to milestones such as – National Policy on HIV/AIDS in the world of work in India in 2009; Statement of Commitment on HIV/AIDS by Employers and Workers organizations; workplace policies and programmes by public and private sector; mainstreaming HIV prevention in the institutions of MOLE; a MOU between NACO, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and MOLE, among others.

I am pleased to share that over the years ILO has worked very closely with ESIC and NACO for capacity building of medical and paramedical staff on ART/ PEP management and tracking, promoting Universal Medical Precautions, addressing issues of stigma and discrimination in the health care workplace settings, conducting studies to assess status of HIV/TB services in selected ESIC hospitals, among others.

The outreach and presence of ESIC is well placed to extend the prevention, care and support related services to workers in the informal sector- including counselling-testing and linkage to care and treatment.

ILO is working with the ESIC and MOLE for extending social health protection and coverage of ESI scheme with a focus on transition to formalization in India, and I do hope that this would provide an avenue for expanding social assistance and protection to workers in the informal economy. Likewise, it will be important to mainstream these initiatives in the overall workers’ health initiatives so that they are not stand-alone but part of the wider package.

In the context of the MOU between NACO and MOLE, this training is particularly important as it will provide opportunities for sharing information and knowledge on the entry points for working jointly for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support services for workers.

For ILO, HIV/AIDS workplace policy and programmes form part of the Decent Work Country Programme and is crucial to our work towards protecting the rights of workers living with HIV, providing them with social protection; addressing the issue of stigma and discrimination and supporting workers living with HIV as a productive member of the workforce. We are committed to offering our technical support to expand workplace interventions in India.

Now, The ILO has global HIV prevention programme with strong focus on HIV testing. A significant number of people living with HIV globally still do not know their status. The Voluntary Counseling and Testing at Work initiative, therefore, is poised to make a significant contribution in enabling people know their status early and then access treatment on time, if necessary.

I also appreciate the leadership provided by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in developing a National Policy Framework on TB and HIV and the world of work in India within which workplace policy and programmes on TB and HIV/AIDS should be implemented. This framework calls for a joint action to end TB and HIV by 2025 and 2030 respectively.

Finally, it is our pleasure to work with NACO in putting together this sensitization programme for the medical officers of Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC). I am indeed very happy to see such good participation from ESIC and thank all of you for being here.

I wish the sensitization programme all success and am sure you all will take the leanings forward.

Thank you for your kind attention.