ILO, Labour Ministry, plan AIDS education for migrant workers
Health | Labour and Migration
The International Labour Organisation and China’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security have launched a USD 3.5 million HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Project funded by the United States Department of Labor as part of a global initiative, it was announced last week.
Anhui, Guangdong and Yunnan provinces will be the main initial sites of the project, which is expected to help the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MOLSS) meet ambitious targets set for it by China’s National Action Plan on HIV/AIDS.
The project will offer workers “ongoing education, usually integrated into human resource or occupational health and safety systems that already exist,” according to
Richard Howard, Chief Technical Advisor to the project.
As well as providing information on prevention, the project is expected to help companies and trade unions develop appropriate policies and practices to protect the employment rights of HIV-positive people, and to prevent stigma against them.
Activities are likely to be largely aimed at rural migrant workers, according to Howard. A national workshop, scheduled for March, “will help the Ministry of Labour identify segments in the rural migrant population that are at greater risk.” Mining and hospitality industries will be among the options considered.
Whilst recognising prior workplace education efforts of NGOs and come companies, Howard stresses “the huge potential for scale by working through ILO’s government partners,” including the All China Federation of Trade Unions and the Chinese Enterprise Confederation (中国企业联合会). “The network is incredible, it’s just a matter of building in to the system,” he says.
The project will assist the MOLSS to develop national and provincial guidelines that draw on China’s existing laws and on the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the World of Work. Key principles in that Code include HIV counseling and testing that guarantees consent and confidentiality, prohibition of mandatory HIV screening for workers, and access to care, support and treatment.
China’s National Action Plan on HIV/AIDS calls on the MOLSS to reach 70% of China’s workforce with HIV/AIDS education 2007, and 90% of the workforce by 2009.
In 2006, the Chinese government reported a cumulative total of 183,733 HIV and AIDS cases—up 30% from 2005, although the increase is partly ascribed to improvement in case reporting. The Ministry of Health estimates that in 2005 there were 650,000 HIV positive people in China. Injecting drug use accounted for 37% of new reported infections in 2006 while sexual transmission accounted for 28%, up from 10% in 2002. Prevalence among women sex workers in surveillance sites increased to 1% in 2006 up from .02% in 1996.
The ILO-US Department of Labor project is being implemented in 23 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Report by Nick Young, January 29, 2007