|Your Health and Safety at Work: A Collection of Modules - Aids and the Workplace (ILO, 1996, 84 p.)|
AIDS education training seminar
The workplace is an important environment for promoting the health of all workers as well as for disseminating information and education about the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Education in the workplace is particularly important since many people express fear about having contact with people who have HIV infection and AIDS. At work, these fears can affect workers' attitudes towards co-workers with AIDS or even towards workers suspected of being in "high-risk groups".
Co-workers may have serious concerns when they learn that a worker has AIDS or is infected with HIV. They may ask for absolute proof that AIDS cannot be transmitted casually. Fears about contamination may surface. Workers may think about requesting transfers, or not using the same telephones, drinking fountains or workplace equipment. Some workers may be convinced that they are at risk just by being near an infected co-worker. Unions must take action to fight prejudice or discrimination.
The best solution to these problems is a worker education programme to decrease fears and to make sure everyone has accurate information about AIDS. To be most effective, workplace educational programmes on HIV/AIDS should be developed cooperatively between management, workers and their representatives and the occupational health service, if there is one.
Unfortunately, workers with HIV or AIDS often face discrimination in the workplace. This can include loss of job, violations of confidentiality, unnecessary restrictions placed on infected workers, and being passed over for promotions, better work assignments, and other rights.
There are several tools that unions can use to fight discrimination, including:
· The contract: Even if there is no specific language on AIDS discrimination in the union contract, there may be general language prohibiting discrimination, or more specific language forbidding discrimination based on physical handicap, medical condition or sexual orientation.
· Community support: Building community support for a worker with HIV infection or AIDS can also help. Some unions have defended the rights of members with AIDS in this way.
· Laws: If no laws exist in your country to protect sick or disabled workers, your union may want to put pressure on government officials to develop such laws.
Points to remember about AIDS education in the workplace
1. Fears about having contact with people who have HIV or AIDS can have a negative effect on workers' attitudes towards co-workers with HIV or AIDS.
2. Unions must take action to fight prejudices or discrimination directed towards workers with HIV or AIDS.
3. A workplace education programme about AIDS is the best way to fight such prejudice and discrimination. It is also the best way to make sure everyone in the workplace has accurate information about AIDS. To be most effective, the programme should be developed cooperatively between management, workers and their representatives, and the occupational health service, if there is one.
4. There are several tools that unions can use to fight discrimination, including contract language, community support and laws.