|Your Health and Safety at Work: A Collection of Modules - Aids and the Workplace (ILO, 1996, 84 p.)|
Health and safety representative
As a health and safety representative, your co-workers will bring many problems to you. It may happen that a union member will confidentially tell you that he or she is infected with HIV and needs your help. There will be many issues for you to deal with in such a situation:
1. The worker will probably want to keep working. You may need to work together with the union to make sure that the worker continues to work as long as he or she is physically able.
2. You may have to confront possible discrimination against the infected worker, as well as the fears of management and co-workers.
3. You may need to get information for the worker regarding medical treatment, possible special employment options, benefits, insurance, etc.
4. You may have to confront issues of confidentiality.
It is not easy to be a health and safety representative under the best of circumstances. Helping members who have life-threatening diseases can be stressful. Dealing with other members who are afraid, uninformed, or even prejudiced can also create stress. It is also important to recognize your own fears and prejudices. If you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed dealing with the issue of AIDS, try to find support from others in the union, or from members working on the health and safety or grievance committees, for example.
Remember that the World Health Organization's Global AIDS Programme can lend assistance to you, including providing you with AIDS information pamphlets - available in a number of different languages - which you can distribute in your workplace and union. The local and regional offices of the World Health Organization and the International Labour Office are other resources for assistance.
1. AIDS is the result of destruction of the immune system by a virus called HIV.
2. Not everybody infected with the AIDS virus will develop the disease, but they may be able to transmit the virus.
3. Transmission of the virus essentially occurs:
· via sexual intercourse
· via the blood (exchange of contaminated needles),
· from an infected mother to her foetus.
4. AIDS presents in the form of infections, certain cancers and neurological manifestations, etc.
5. The part of the world most severely affected at the present time is Africa, followed by the USA and Europe. Asia is still relatively free of the disease.
6. The disease seems to be spreading to the general population.
7. At the moment, there is no definitive treatment or vaccine, but research is actively underway in this field.
8. Prevention is the only weapon available at the present time; it depends on good information.
9. Avoid illicit drugs and avoid sharing needles or syringes.
10. Have a responsible sex life and use condoms whenever necessary.