17 June 2010 Governments, employers and workers meeting at the annual conference of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) today adopted a new international standard on HIV and AIDS – the first international human rights instrument to focus specifically on the pandemic as a workplace issue.
Among its provisions, the new instrument stresses that measures to address HIV and AIDS in the workplace should be part of national development policies and programmes. It rejects discrimination against workers, job-seekers and applicants on the grounds of real or perceived HIV status, and accords “fundamental priority” to preventing all modes of HIV transmission.
The standard states that workers, their families and their dependents should enjoy protection of their privacy, including confidentiality related to HIV and AIDS, and that no workers should be required to undertake an HIV test or disclose their HIV status. The workplace is expected to facilitate the access, by workers, their families and dependants, to prevention, treatment, care and support.
Today’s action takes the form of an ILO Recommendation, which, unlike a Convention, does not require ratification. However, it must be communicated to national parliaments for discussion of how it might be implemented through national policies and legislation.
“With this new human rights instrument, we can harness the strength of the world of work and optimize workplace interventions to significantly improve access to prevention, treatment, care and support,” said Dr. Sophia Kisting, Director of ILO’s Programme on HIV and AIDS.
She added that the standard would provide “a major contribution to making the dream of an AIDS-free generation a reality.”
In support of the new standard, the ILO’s annual conference also adopted a resolution inviting the agency’s Governing Body to allocate greater resources to promoting it. It also asked that a global plan of action be established to achieve widespread implementation of the standard, including regular reporting from ILO member States on their actions to that end.
“We have no time to waste” in implementing this standard, said Thembi Nene-Shezi of South Africa, who chaired the debates leading to its adoption. “The engagement of those that have given birth to it – the governments, employers and workers – will be crucial to the development of national workplace policies anchored in human rights and directed at overcoming discrimination.”
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