Report from Washington DC
21 July 2012
This week sees the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC, and the TUC is taking part in the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) delegation.
The ITUC programme kicked off with a Trade Union Forum jointly organised with the AFL-CIO (the national union confederation for the USA) on Saturday 21 July. Speakers emphasised the need for, and the importance of, a social protection floor in the fight against the pandemic which has had a disproportionately high impact on the vulnerable sections of society.
The Forum brought together trade union representatives from countries mostly affected by the disease in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as those from the US, UK and Canada. It provided the opportunity for the participants to examine the role of workplace in combating the pandemic, review the progress and the effectiveness of workplace programmes and look into a multiplicity of socio-economic factors driving its spread through the fault lines in society in many countries.
Patricia Keefer, Deputy Director of International Affairs at the American Federation of Teachers, told the gathering that stigma and discrimination constituted a formidable obstacle in tackling the issue in the teaching profession. Many teachers found it difficult to carry on with their jobs following the diagnosis and, in many instances, teachers held in high esteem had to suffer indignity.
Alice Quedraogo, Director of ILO-AIDS, pointed out that the introduction of a social protection floor would make a significant contribution to the fight against the pandemic in many countries and cited the example of South Africa where similar measures, though limited in coverage, had a decisive impact on the situation and made treatment and prevention considerably easier and more effective.
Juneia Martins Batista, Health Secretary, CUT Brazil, highlighted the successful interventions by the trade union movement in Brazil and pointed out that the trade union involvement has been a key factor in bringing down infection rates in Brazil.
Finally Maureen Onyia, Secretary, HIV/AIDS Committee Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in her presentation, underlined the achievements of the three-year workplace initiative funded by the UK Department for International Development through the TUC. She stressed the importance of the participation of youth in preventive strategies at all levels and advised the meeting of a number of initiatives taken by NLC affiliates to develop and implement workplace policies.
In my intervention from the floor, I briefed the gathering on the outcomes of the Voluntary Counselling and Confidential Testing programmes carried out under the Project. Some 23,000 workers had attended the two clinics in Abuja, Nigeria. Approximately 5.8% of them tested positive and were referred to appropriate hospitals for treatment, support and care. I pointed out that the prevalence rates among some categories of workers appeared to be well above the national average based on sentinel surveillance.
Stewart Brown, Executive Member, Fire Brigades Union (FBU), raised the issue of homophobia in a number of countries in the Commonwealth and said that trade unions in the countries concerned were not doing enough in this regard and that the UK had a special responsibility to raise the issue with the authorities at the highest level.
Representatives from the World Bank, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PREFAR) and UNAIDS also addressed the Forum, which was co-chaired by Zuzanna Gorska-Musket, ITUC Global Coordinator on HIV/AIDS and Imani Countess, Regional Programme Director for Africa, American Center for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS).
The TUC sponsored two trade union delegates - Daniel Boatey from the Ghana Trades Union Congress and Maureen Onyia from the NLC - to the International AIDS Conference, as well as sending Bandula Kothalawala and Stewart Brown.
Briefing document (700 words) issued 23 Jul 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-21262-f0.cfm
printed 21 May 2013 at 20:55 hrs by 22.214.171.124