Human rights are linked to the spread and impact of HIV, with lack of rights exacerbating the impact of the disease. Issues such as gender inequality, discrimination, poverty and social injustice contribute to and increase the impact of HIV. The protection and promotion of human rights is essential in the global response to HIV and the realisation of human rights means access to education, information, care, treatment and support for individuals affected or infected by HIV and AIDS.
SWHAP supported workplaces are working towards healthy working environments where the human rights and dignity of all people including those living with HIV or other medical conditions are protected and respected. Workplace HIV and Wellness policies recognise HIV and AIDS as a workplace issue and ensure, the provision of education, information sharing, confidentiality, access to medical treatment and support services for all employees. HIV positive employees are accorded the same rights, facilities, benefits and opportunities as those with other serious or life threatening illnesses.
Workplace policies are also taking in to account the gender differentiated vulnerabilities to HIV and are attempting to address the biological, socio-cultural and economic reasons that make women more vulnerable to the disease. Workplace programmes include spouses of the predominantly male workforce, encouraging shared confidentiality especially partner notification and support income generating projects for spouses.
The slogan for this year “Human Rights 365”, reminds us that every day is Human Rights Day and that we need to keep pressing on to ensure the fulfilment of human rights for all.
The Swedish Workplace HIV and AIDS Programme (SWHAP) joins the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day 2014. The theme for this year, “Closing the gap”, focuses efforts on empowering and enabling people everywhere to access the HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services that they need, ensuring that no one is left behind.
UNAIDS has set bolds targets for the elimination of the AIDS epidemic as a global health threat by 2030. These targets relate to zero discrimination, reduction in the number of new infections to 200,000 amongst adults by 2030 and 95-95-95 for treatment (95% of all people living with HIV knowing their status; 95% of all people diagnosed with HIV receiving treatment and; 95% of all people on treatment achieving viral load suppression). According to UNAIDS “without scale-up the AIDS epidemic will continue to outrun the response, increasing the long-term need for HIV treatment and increasing future costs.” Scaling up will result in a 15-fold return on HIV investments, preventing 28 million HIV infections by 2030 (13 million in sub-Saharan Africa) and 21 million deaths. Scaling up now would also mean USD 24 billion saved in future treatment costs. (http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/WAD2014)
As SWHAP has shown, workplaces are an important arena for addressing the causes and implications of HIV and AIDS. All parties in the workplace have a vested interest in ensuring that no one is left behind. Investment in workplace programmes has been shown to make good business sense for companies, by reducing absenteeism and improving productivity. On a macroeconomic level it is estimated that the HIV and AIDS epidemic reduces economic growth by 1% annually in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa (www.avert.org), inaction is not an option. Trade Unions are an important partner in scaling up the response to HIV and AIDS at the workplace, for example through their encouragement of members’ participation in programmes, better testing outcomes have been realised within the SWHAP network.
SWHAP supported workplaces are working towards healthy working environments where the human rights and dignity of all people including those living with HIV or other medical conditions are protected and respected. Workplace HIV and Wellness policies recognise HIV and AIDS as a workplace issue and ensure, the provision of education, information sharing, confidentiality, access to medical treatment and support services for all employees. These polices are in line with the International Labour Organization’s HIV and AIDS Recommendation (No.200).
Workplace programmes are helping to address some of the social and structural issues that prevent employees and their families from accessing testing and treatment services. Structured programmes provide access to testing and treatment for employees and families at the workplace through regular on-site testing and wellness days. Employee Support Programmes with counselling, nutrition support and follow-up of positive employees are helping to promote adherence to treatment. Tuberculosis, Condom, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision and Peer Education Programmes promoting behaviour change are also playing their role in ensuring no one in the workplace is left behind.
Through community outreach programmes, companies are working with vulnerable key populations, for example adolescent girls and young women in Kenya, whilst in the DRC peer education programmes are addressing information gaps on sexual orientation that perpetuate stigma and discrimination, making it difficult for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed individuals to access healthcare services. Furthermore, SWHAP participation and support of programmes such as “Getting to Zero at Work” and “VCT@Work” is also helping to ensure many more people in the workplace and surrounding communities have access to testing and treatment.
This World AIDS Day lets scale-up our commitment and efforts to ending AIDS as a global health threat by 2030. Workplace HIV and wellness programmes can “Close the gap”.