The International Labour Organisation (ILO), in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National AIDS Control Organisation, launched a campaign in India to highlight the urgent need to scale up workplace HIV programmes. Director of ILO/AIDS Alice Ouedraogo was present at the launch and spoke to Kundan Pandey about the programme, HIV prevalence in the world and India and other related matters. Excerpts
What is this ‘Getting to Zero at Work’ campaign all about?
It’s a campaign launched on December 1, 2012 by ILO, UN AIDS and WHO jointly. This campaign is meant to re-mobilise the “world of work” regarding HIV/AIDS. Everybody is virtually a worker so any change should focus on suitable to work environment. Around 50 per cent people suffering from HIV globally, are not aware about the disease. Their lack of awareness causes problems to their family members and relatives. They don’t go for medical check-up because they are scared of discrimination. They fear that once they are diagnosed positive for HIV, they and their family members will have to face discrimination at work place, in the society. We want that the “world of work” must stop discrimination.
ILO deals with workers, employers and different governments through their labour ministries. So it is easy for ILO to mobilise people in work setting to go for tests.
What are the major targets of this programme?
At present we want to aware people and motivate them to go for testing. The entire information would be confidential and it is voluntary. This voluntary counselling and testing is one major aspect of whole programme and India is the first country which has officially launched it. Globally, we are going to launch on June 6. The campaign in India will focus on strengthening implementation of labour policies to protect the employment rights of people with HIV and scaling up HIV voluntary counselling and testing for workers who are most vulnerable.
What are other strategies to deal with the discrimination at work place?
It will vary from country to country. Every country will have to opt for strategies according to its requirement. For example, India knows its problem better than any other organisation. It knows its other conditions like geography, cultural impact and other such issues. ILO will learn from these countries and will suggest to other countries that need to develop strategies further.
What are your views on India's efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS? Is there a possibility of India shifting its focus from the subject?
India has become exemplary in this area. It has attained a remarkable 50 per cent reduction in the number of new HIV infections in the past decade. Now, the country is spearheading the fighting with HIV/AIDS. Statistics shows that the country has performed on every front relating to fighting with HIV. However, the country certainly will have to deal with the migrant population which is now looking vulnerable. This will certainly be different from dealing with static population.
As far as shifting focus is concerned, we are confident enough that India will not do it. Every one is aware that Thailand had a bad experience due to this shifting focus after a marginal success. In Thailand, there as again an outbreak once the policy makers shifted focus after realising that they have almost controlled HIV/AIDS in the country.
Your views on the progress the world has made in controlling HIV/AIDS in the past decade
The world has made tremendous progress. Today around eight million people are on ART (anti-retroviral therapy). Eight years ago, hardly one million people were getting treatment. We have achieved a lot on every front, including treatment, awareness and support from society. But it is still an issue as we don’t have vaccines. The disease is not a death sentence now at least but it is a chronic manageable disease. So we need to ensure that all patients are getting treatment. Otherwise, it will continue increasing.
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