AFL-CIO takes on AIDS
 

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posted Friday, December 4, 2009 - Volume 37 Issue 49

AFL-CIO takes on AIDS
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

To mark World AIDS Day, the AFL-CIO announced new international initiatives against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In South Africa, the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center is partnering with the National Metal Workers Union of South Africa in a five-year workplace-centered HIV/AIDS program "Be Faithful, Be Tested, Be Unionized."

One out of every nine South Africans is estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS.

The Solidarity Center program, which was initiated on World AIDS Day 2008, develops and supports HIV/AIDS education, voluntary testing, counseling, and services. The nearly all-male metalworkers can also learn skills to negotiate workplace HIV/AIDS policies with their employers.

The AFL-CIO says that working with local unions, as opposed to companies or government agencies, is crucial for achieving results:

"The key to the program's success: it's led by the union, not management. Workers in South Africa and other countries fear they will lose jobs or job status if they are perceived as being HIV-positive. During the past year, the program provided HIV/AIDS education to more than 6,000 union members and their families and more than 2,300 workers volunteered to receive counseling and testing for the disease."

In East Africa, the Solidarity Center is a partner in SafeTStop, a comprehensive five-year initiative aimed at bringing HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment to long-haul truckers and communities in the East African transport corridor.

SafeTStop centers operate at truck stops and serve adjacent communities as well. The centers link truckers to voluntary, confidential HIV counseling and testing, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, education and training opportunities, and provide support for orphans and at-risk children.

The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center's mission is "to help build a global labor movement by strengthening the economic and political power of workers around the world through effective, independent, and democratic unions."

It maintains field offices in 26 developing countries worldwide, and has its headquarters in Washington DC.

Individual AFL-CIO unions are also participating in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has joined with teachers' unions in Africa to create the Teachers Caring for Teachers program, which has become a prototype for teachers unions across the continent.

The AFT Educational Foundation also is working with six teachers unions in South Africa to provide support for teachers affected by HIV/AIDS. So far, the program has reached out to 750,000 teachers.

With AFT's help, students in the United States and Africa are sharing their experiences with HIV/AIDS in their communities. In September this year, students at Artesia High School in Lakewood, California, and Manenberg High School in Cape Town, South Africa, began communicating via computer. Students also will visit each other's schools. Communications Workers of America (CWA) has partnered with Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the producers of a kid's DVD Sockville - A New Pair of Socks to raise money for children with HIV/AIDS.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation has been CWA's charity of choice for the past 20 years.

Some 2 million children are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, with 1,000 more becoming infected every day.

On World AIDS Day 2007, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the AFL-CIO was a founding member, launched a global action plan against HIV/AIDS. The ITUC plan focused on improving workplace health and safety and providing better care and treatment for all workers, including those with HIV/AIDS.

In 2001, the International Labor Organization announced its Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work, a document providing 10 principles for "policy development and practical guidelines for programs at enterprise, community, and national levels."

The AFL-CIO adopted the ILO principles as the basis for its own programs. The ILO is an agency of the United Nations.



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