Monday, 14 November 2011 12:06

Workplace HIV/AIDS prevention, control

Addis Ababa, 22 April 2011 (The Ethiopian Herald) - Needless to mention, human beings have been experiencing a number of complications, particularly in developing countries, as a result of the presence of various diseases on earth since time immemorial. Thanks to science and technology, a number of mechanisms and approaches have been employed to prevent and control the multifaceted disorders baffling human race.

One of these diseases probably for which scientists so far failed to find its cure is HIV/AIDS." This pandemic is indiscriminately challenging human beings. Though people failed to find lasing solution to sustainably cure HIV/AIDS, there are now various means to be used accordingly to mitigate the rapid prevalence of the pandemic. These approaches are bearing fruits too. The reason behind using different approaches is one way might not fit every circumstance or juncture. For example, workplace is one of the areas which need special attention to bring about change in this regard as it has a direct bearing to economic development.

The World Labor Organization has recently formulated a workplace practical guideline believed to be used by all nations with a view to fighting the disease. The guideline is now used as a special input in curbing the outspread of the pandemic, reducing the negative impact it imposes on the workers, employees, laborers and their families. It is also playing important role in empowering social prevention activities. The thematic areas of the guideline are, among others, avoiding employment discrimination and ensuring gender equality, ensuring blood testing confidentiality and promoting social discussions. Promoting activities targeting at prevention, treatment and support is also another main point incorporated in the guideline. Equally, the guideline has underlined the spirit of respecting the rights and dignity of workers living with the virus.

Undeniably, Ethiopia is one of the countries severely affected by the pandemic. No field including workplace is free of this attack. Although it is difficult to find national data clearly showing the prevalence and impacts of the pandemic on the socio-economic development of the nation so far, according to the current World Labor Organization studies, of the total gross national product 7 per cent or over 234 million USD has been pumped to the endeavor to fight against the pandemic. It is quit true that HIV/AIDS is severely attacking human beings irrespective of their race, color, sex, place of origin and social status. In fact, different sources show that the country has taken encouraging steps towards preventing and controlling of the disease over the past years. However, it is quiet appropriate to raise, in Ethiopia, a question what steps are taken specifically with regard 10 workplace HIV prevention and control.

Different activities have been undertaken to prevent and control the pandemic in the nation since it was detected. But integrated and important measures have began to be carried out after the ratification of national HIV/ AIDS prevention and control policy in 1999.

First, HIV/AIDS was considered only a health problem, but later it has proved to be a serious bottleneck to economic development apart from its negative health impact. So long as the disease was attested as a major setback hampering the smooth flow of activities at workplace, as of the time the new millennium set in, various activities regarding the disease have been carried out to arrest its rate of spread. Particularly the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has been undertaking different activities as it is in charge of fostering conditions in favor of any sort of social affairs.

As a continuation of its effort, the Ministry has recently organized consultative meeting giving ample chance to a multitude of participants drawn from different government developmental enterprises. The meeting was aimed at sharing best experiences among participants that would help them work in an integrated manner to scale up workplace HIV/AIDS prevention. It was also intended to promote the culture of working together. State Minister Employer Employee Affairs Special Assistant, Zerihun Gezahegn said that preventing and curbing the prevalence of the pandemic in workplace can play decisive role in tackling the possible adverse effects the pandemic can result in especially that compromise the productivity and competence of the working force.

Unless important measures are taken, undoubtedly, the Pandemic would continue distorting the lifestyle of the society, declining conductivity and demand, challenging foreign investment flow and market competitiveness. Generally, it would negatively affect the socio-economic development of the nation.

Though the Ministry as been undertaking different prevention and control activities at various levels, the federal, regional offices and organizations working on the area should remain capable in order to be able to curb and prevent the prevalence of the disease at workplace, said Zerihun.

As to him, National workplace HIVIAIDS prevention and control policy aiming at mobilizing national efforts to fight the pandemic in an integrated manner is already ratified and goes functional. In addition, sectoral policy is also under practice on some sectors which are selected for higher exposure and susceptibility to the pandemic.

Organizations and their respective employes need to develop firm commitment and determination to successfully prevent and control the disease as it is vital means to be triumphant over the pandemic. Since HIV/AIDS is an obstacle to properly attain mission, organizations need to ratify their own policy through which they can manage things in an integrated and sustainable manner. Thus, based on the policy, workplace HIV/AIDS treatment service centers would also be established to let the community and family undergo blood test and provide them with other related services such as counseling. Workers must be get informed that the disease can never be transmitted by living and working together with HIV positive ones. This can be achieved by providing workers and their families with training and relevant information. Therefore, organizations must ensure the protection against discrimination, victimization and harassment. According to Zerihun, prevention as a mainstream of workplace program needs to incorporate the two main points cited below:

Education: It is obvious that awareness raising programs are the most successful methods to be employed in the efforts to prevent the disease in workplace. This approach helps come up with behavioral change. Education can also bring about good outcome if presented in the following way: peer to peer education and involving workers living with HIVIAIDS the most important methods. Addressing workers using drama and play to provide the needed information can also be successful in bringing behavioral change. The education needs to be prepared based on the context of each workplace. This helps workers know their work behavior and take action accordingly and urgently.

Practical measures: these are the practical activities which help the effort to prevent and control the disease. Facilitating condom supply which is necessary in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Achieving universal precautions such as provision of personal cleanliness and that of materials to avoid blood and other fluid contact.

Organizations should provide workers and employees with workplace HIV prevention and control programs and services on their consent. In the modern corporate system, providing this kinds of services is taken as part of "corporate social responsibility" and promotes a given organization's productivity and competitiveness.

Harmonious Industrial Relations Directorate occupational safety health and labor inspection case team coordinating Director with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Mesifm Yilma, said it is time for all concerned bodies to work hand in glove to save the lives of the workers there by increasing the productivity. of the enterprises in particular and maintain the economic growth of the nation at large. Mainstreaming gender specific approach is also crucial in the fight against HIVIAIDS for women are more vulnerable than men due to biological, sociocultural and other factors, he added.

It was pointed out that there are some private as well as government enterprises that have already put 'workplace HIV/AIDS prevention and control practices in action. This can be taken as a encouraging move, indeed. However. There a lot remains to be done other organizations need to follow suit and should know well that they will be competitive 'and productive if and only if they are be able to save the lives of their workers. BY NIGUSE SIBUH

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