World AIDS Day 2022
Special Feature Article from the HIV Workplace Advocacy Unit
In 1988, the world commemorated its first World AIDS Day on December 1st. Thirty- four years later, we stand in solidarity to support persons living with HIV and remember those who have passed on from an AIDS- related illness. This year’s theme ‘Equalize” urgently requests the attention of all to address those inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS. Four decades into the HIV response, inequalities still persist for the most basic services such as testing, treatment, and condoms, and even more so, for new technologies.
The COVID- 19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the list of challenges alerting the need for swift action in addressing HIV and AIDS. Locally, there are approximately 11, 000 persons living with HIV and AIDS. The “Equalize” slogan is a call to action and a prompt for all of us to work for the proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS. The Ministry of Labour’s (MOL) HIV Workplace Advocacy Unit (HWAU) champions the national response to HIV and AIDS in the workplace.
Given that a workplace response can provide protection for workers living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, such a response creates a safe, healthy and productive work environment and ensures that the fundamental rights of all workers are met. The HWAU’s mandate is to advocate and provide technical support for the adoption and implementation of the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS (2017) in all workplaces in Trinidad and Tobago, including the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organisations and workplaces in the informal economy.
The objectives of the Unit are to:
- reduce employment related stigma and discrimination against persons living with or affected by HIV and AIDS and
- reduce behaviours that put workers at risk of contracting HIV (and other sexually transmitted infections), by providing employers and employees with information and behaviour change strategies.
The HWAU provides technical assistance and support to its Stakeholders and Client organizations at no cost in the following areas:
- Development and review of workplace policies on HIV and AIDS
- Training on:
- Peer Education and Programme Development
- Skills Building in HIV Workplace Policy Development
- Provision of educational programmes toward addressing HIV and AIDS related workplace stigma and discrimination
- Assistance in developing specific programmes and Information Education and Communication (IEC) material to inform and educate workers about HIV and AIDS.
- Provision of HIV and AIDS resource referrals
As we commemorate World AIDS Day 2022, we reflect on the continuing efforts to resolve the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS, with particular emphasis on the workplace response. We are cognizant of the negative impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on countries globally. Nevertheless, the inequalities which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic are not inevitable; they can be resolved. In the words of Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS; “We can end AIDS – if we end the inequalities which perpetuate it. This World AIDS Day we need everyone to get involved in sharing the message that we will all benefit when we tackle inequalities, to keep everyone safe, to protect everyone’s health, we need to Equalize.”
The HWAU takes this opportunity to underscore our commitment in addressing HIV and AIDS in the workplace. Our mandate, which covers all of Trinidad and Tobago, is both challenging and rewarding. Over the years, we have made steady progress in the promotion of the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS within organisations. However, there is still much work to be covered. As the largest association of Employers in Trinidad and Tobago, the Employers Consultative Association further lends to the efforts of the Unit as they afford exposure through sensitisation, education and information sessions. The mutually beneficial partnership would ensure dedicated advocates for the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS and a well-informed Employer community. We aim to create a safe and enabling work environment in which all members can collaborate, engage in critical thinking, and respond in a manner that allows us to achieve and sustain equitable work environments and programming. All of us, everywhere, must do all we can to help resolve inequalities too. We need to acknowledge and work to disrupt the power imbalances that exist within our local contexts.
As the Unit leading the national workplace response, the HWAU echoes the words of Ms Byanyima, Executive Director UNAIDS “We can end AIDS by 2030 as promised, but what it takes is courage.”
Source: HIV Workplace Advocacy Unit, Ministry of Labour