HMS HIV Policy

HIV/AIDS has emerged as a serious issue for the world of work. Globally, an estimated 38 million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003. Nearly 26 million of these are workers (ILO estimates). 90% of those identified as HIV affected belong to the productive age group of 15-49 years. In India, about 5.1 million people are said to be affected by HIV-AIDS (as of 2003). India is ranked second in the world (after South Africa) in terms of the estimated number of people living with HIV-AIDS (PLWHA). About 1.5 million people have lost their lives in India as a result of HIV-AIDS and it is estimated that this number will cross 10 million by 2015, unless significant steps are taken for prevention of spread of this epidemic.

Apart from the resource shortage to tackle the epidemic, the major barriers coming in the way of handling HIV-AIDS menace are – ignorance, social apathy, stigma and discrimination. In the absence of a positive policy/law to protect the rights of the people living with HIV-AIDS (PLWHA), much hardship is being caused to those affected and their families through – denial of employment, loss of livelihoods & incomes, lack of medical care, even housing rights and disruption in children’s education. At the same time, wide spread ignorance on the HIV-AIDS issue is leading to the adoption of high risk behaviour on the part of the workers.

HMS has been gravely concerned over the growing crisis posed by HIV-AIDS pandemic among the workers and their families. The 30th Biennial Convention of HMS held in Nagpur in February 2004 recognised HIV-AIDS as a serious threat in the world of work. The convention directed HMS to launch nation wide campaign through its affiliates to create awareness amongst the workers and to put into practice guidelines given by the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS in the world of work. As a result, HMS set up a Task Force on HIV/AIDS with a mandate to consult key stakeholders, refer to the National AIDS policy and the ILO Code of Practice and propose a draft HIV-AIDS intervention policy and approach for HMS and its affiliates.     

HMS Policy on Prevention and Control of HIV-AIDS & STDs

HIV/AIDS directly affects workers in several ways. Workers/ families are facing stigma and discrimination, dying as well as dropping out of labour force due to HIV/AIDS, losing incomes and employee benefits. As a result, families suffer, education of children suffers, produces conditions for child labour, additional burden on women and elderly persons. The protection of workers rights and welfare being a priority agenda of the trade unions, HMS recognises the threat posed by HIV-AIDS- STDs and accepts it as one of the key issues to be addressed by HMS and its affiliates, both at the national as well as state levels in India.

Protection of rights and dignity of workers living with HIV/AIDS/STDs:

  • HMS adopts the policy guidelines of the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work. The HMS, along with its affiliates, will work on implementation of ILO guidelines in collaboration with the government, employers, other trade unions and organisations in India.
  • HMS and affiliates will work with government and employers to ensure that workers are not discriminated on the basis on their real or perceived HIV status. For this, it will strive for National Work Place Policy in India.
  • HMS and affiliates will not support HIV/AIDS screening of job applicants or persons in employment.
  • HMS and affiliates will continue to cooperate with the employers to ensure confidentiality regarding HIV status of workers, continuation in employment of workers as long they can work and setting up HIV prevention, care & support programme for workers at the workplaces.    
  • HMS will participate in national/state level committees as and when requested by MOL/National AIDS Control Organization (NACO)/State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) – to provide inputs to the development of national strategies/policies/ legislation covering HIV/AIDS in the world of work in India. In particular, HMS will advocate for non-discriminatory legal framework in India.
  • HMS will cooperate and collaborate with other trade unions in spreading the awareness on HIV-AIDS, to protect rights of the workers affected by HIV-AIDS and promote work place policies prevent stigma and discrimination and promote care and support for those affected.

HIV prevention & care programmes for workers in formal and informal economy:

  • All workers should have right to information and access to health, counselling and education programmes on HIV-AIDS. 
  • HMS will promote capacity building activities among unions to implement HIV/AIDS interventions at work place and in the community.  HIV/AIDS/ STDS education and awareness programmes will be mainstreamed into the trade union education programmes. 
  • HMS will seek partnerships with NACO/ILO and other agencies to create HIV/AIDS trainers within its units, using the training manual and tools developed by the ILO, V.V.Giri National labour Institute in India and others.
  • HIV/AIDS campaign of HMS will be gender sensitive as women are adversely affected by HIV/AIDS due to biological as well as sociological reasons.  Special consideration will be given to the programme for women workers and workers whose work conditions may put them at the higher risk of getting HIV infection like the health care workers / migrant and mobile workers.
  • HMS will advocate for care and support of children affected by HIV-AIDS (either directly or due to HIV-AIDS inflicted death or disability of their parents) – so as to prevent them from becoming child labour or disruption in their education.
  • HMS will carry out awareness and education campaign among workers and also develop pilot interventions in selected areas, in formal and informal sectors; it will seek partnerships with employers/NACO/SACS/ILO and other agencies to implement them.
  • HMS believes that infected workers have a right to get treatment, including treatment with Anti Retroviral Drugs. HMS will cooperate and negotiate with employers and government to ensure that the employers provide appropriate treatment, either directly or through available social security/insurance schemes.

Role of the Task Force:

HMS has established a Task Force to develop its policy. The Task Force will review the policy and programmes from time to time and suggest necessary changes. Annual Plan of actions on HIV/AIDS will be developed. Partnerships will be generated in implementing the programmes. Expert technical guidance will be solicited from time to time by the Task Force in capacity building, programme management and evaluation. Task Force will also take steps to share HMS Policy on HIV-AIDS with other Central Trade Union Organisations and promote cooperation with them in this fight against HIV-AIDS.

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