The HIV/AIDS epidemic is concentrated among adults of working age: of the 40 million people estimated to be infected today, 90% are adults and at least 25 million are workers in their productive prime (aged 15–49). Their rights, livelihoods and survival are under threat.
In the light of the epidemic and its consequences for working people, their families, communities and workplaces, businesses are working to adapt and extend their responsibilities in the following areas:
As a core union responsibility, the protection of the rights of workers is essential in order to combat the fear and denial that still surround the epidemic, and to promote effective prevention. A core provision in workplace policies and agreements should be non-discrimination on the basis of HIV status.
Most Human Resource Departments in the Workplace have experience in education and training and this can be expanded upon to include sessions on HIV/AIDS and the training of workplace representatives as peer educators.
Prevention programmes should include: informing workers on ways in which HIV can and cannot be transmitted, helping workers assess the risks of their own behaviour, education in life skills and practical support for behavioural change (e.g. condom distribution).
Occupational health and safety is also a basic concern and in the face of HIV/AIDS, and Human Resource Departments can ensure appropriate first-aid measures, including knowledge of universal precautions and availability of basic protective equipment.