UN labour agency to launch new code of practice on HIV/AIDS at workplace

UN labour agency to launch new code of practice on HIV/AIDS at workplace

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Citing new data showing some 23 million workers worldwide now infected with HIV/AIDS, the International Labour Organization (ILO) today announced plans to formally launch a pioneering labour code on the disease at next week's United Nations General Assembly special session on fighting the pandemic.

The ILO Code of Practice and the World of Work will provide workers, employers and governments with new global guidelines, based on international labour standards, for addressing HIV/AIDS and its impact on businesses, communities and nations. It will also help boost efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, manage the impact of the disease, provide care and support for those who are ill, and combat stigma and discrimination.

"The new Code is the most wide-ranging and comprehensive blueprint for workplace policy on HIV/AIDS ever developed and addresses this present situation as well as its future consequences for the world of work," said ILO Director General Juan Somavia, who will launch the new guidelines during the Assembly's three-day special session on HIV/AIDS, which opens in New York on 25 June.

Among its key principles, the Code calls for collaboration among workers, employers and governments to promote prevention. It stresses that there should be no discrimination against workers on the basis of real or perceived HIV status. In addition, the Code urges recognition of the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS.

The Code also bars HIV/AIDS screening of job applicants and says that asking anyone to disclose HIV-related personal information is unjustified. No one should lose their job because they have HIV, according to the Code, and those with AIDS should be able to work for as long as they are medically fit. There should be no discrimination against workers and their dependants living with HIV/AIDS in access to benefits, the Code states.

"The Code is not just about policy and guidelines," said Mr. Somavia. "It is about respecting the dignity of others and learning to live with the reality of HIV/AIDS."