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New UN workplace HIV initiative marks milestone, says Ban Ki-moon

New UN workplace HIV initiative marks milestone, says Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launches UN Cares
A new workplace programme on HIV to provide such services as training, counselling and testing for United Nations staff and their families was launched today, marking a “milestone” for the world body’s response to the virus, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

UN Cares aims to make available the staff, time and resources needed to meet 10 minimum standards – including insurance coverage and access to condoms – by the end of 2011.

“Since the early 1990s, the impact of the virus on our work and on the communities we serve has been historic in magnitude,” Mr. Ban said at the programme’s kick-off at UN Headquarters in New York. “At the same time, our workplace, our staff and our families are profoundly affected.”

The challenge is made greater due to the global nature of the workplace of UN personnel and because the world body’s work encompasses many activities, cultures and conditions, he added.

“Many UN staff members are still not well prepared to protect themselves and their families from HIV,” the Secretary-General noted. “Others may be afraid to be tested, or uncomfortable working with colleagues living with HIV.”

The new system-wide programme seeks to work in tandem with the advocacy and support network for UN staff living with HIV and fight workplace stigma and discrimination, among other goals.

To date, 15 UN entities have pledged some $1.3 million to UN Cares, and today Mr. Ban announced that the UN Secretariat will donate $350,000 as part of an initial contribution.

He pledged to making the UN a model workplace for its response to HIV/AIDS, but cautioned that “our performance will be only as good as the commitment and contribution of every one of us.”

To this end, the Secretary-General urged staff to familiarize themselves with essential facts about HIV, protect themselves from transmission of the virus and take part in UN Cares learning sessions.

“We can make our UN family stronger, more coherent and more responsive to the needs of all staff and their families,” he said. “We can unite to show that the UN cares.”