Top African Union Leader to Light "Candle of Hope" as 28 April Focus on Workplace HIV/AIDS

Statement from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
Nairobi, Kenya – Monday 29 March, 2004

General Secretary of the ICFTU African Regional Organisation (AFRO) Mr. Andrew Kailembo today called upon trade union leaders throughout the continent to make next 28 April a symbolic day to remember those who have died and highlight the plight of those suffering because of HIV/AIDS.

Kailembo spoke about the upcoming 28 April ‘International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers’. He urged trade union leaders to light a “symbolic candle of hope” in their offices on that day to signal their launch of a UNAIDS pledge campaign among trade unionists and workers in general.

“HIV/AIDS is a clear health and safety workplace issue” says Kailembo “and this calls for workplace solutions through joint employer/trade union actions, everywhere”. He says that 28 April activities should shed light on agreements that trade unions have made with employers, both internationally and in Africa to tackle HIV/AIDS in the world’s workplaces.

Kailembo urged trade union leaders from other continents to also commence a process on 28 April to encourage their members to circulate a new UNAIDS form which urges individuals to personally make a pledge to help stop AIDS. “We have to urge people from all walks of life to take initial steps for change”. He said the pledge campaign will aim to mobilise trade union activities leading up to World AIDS day next December 1st.

At the ILO regional meeting held last December in Ethiopia trade unionists appealed to governments and employers to work with them in addressing HIV/AIDS. Kailembo emphasized the importance for governments to:

• promote and support the efforts of employers and workers to combat HIV/AIDS by providing an enabling legal and policy framework for workplace action, including measures to fight against stigma and discrimination;

• strengthen national AIDS plans through the inclusion of a strategy for the world of work and especially with the involvement of employers’ and workers’ representatives in national coordinating mechanisms;

• work towards a strengthening of public health systems, social protection institutions and education and training authorities, with a view to maintaining capacity in the face of the HIV epidemic and developing it over the longer term.

• facilitate access to financial resources of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) for social partners in the world of work, especially employers’ and workers’ organizations

He is also appealing to employers, workers and their organizations to:

• scale up their joint efforts to reduce the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS, and to implement comprehensive workplace
programmes that include prevention, measures to combat stigma and discrimination, and the provision of care and support;

• work in partnership with governments and international donors to extend access to anti-retroviral treatment at the workplace and in the community, especially through opportunities afforded by the “3 x 5” initiative which was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2003 and of which the ILO is a partner.

He said ICFTU-AFRO will light a candle of hope in its own offices for the whole of the African region.

The 9th International Commemoration Day will be celebrated this year by trade unions throughout the world and Kailembo says that the impact of HIV/AIDS on workers lends itself very well to the day’s 2004 themes of “Safe and Healthy Work for All” and “Employer Accountability”.

See also

Workers and employers develop joint actions to fight HIV/AIDS in eight African countries

Global Unions HIV/AIDS campaign

IFJ links: Covering HIV/AIDS issues in Africa