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More than twenty years after World AIDS Day was first observed, and 30 years after the first diagnosed case of the infection, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic still rages.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,000 people worldwide are newly infected with HIV every day; only one-third of the 15 million people in need of lifelong treatment for HIV are receiving it; and 1.8 million people died from AIDS in 2009. Dec. 1 is an important reminder of the persistent crisis and the need for a renewed global response.

Many CUPE members work with people with HIV or AIDS, and some suffer from it themselves. It’s important that we work together to ensure that people living with HIV or AIDS, whether they’re patients, clients or coworkers, aren’t subjected to stigmatization or discrimination because of this disease. Their rights to treatment and accommodation must be protected. It’s also important that appropriate health and safety standards be put in place for at-risk workers.

CUPE has produced a new poster you can put up in your workplace that outlines the importance of treating HIV/AIDS as a workers’ issue. The poster will sent out in the next general mailing, or you can order it by emailing equality@cupe.ca.

At the international level, the International Labour Organization recently released their Recommendation Concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, to which Canada is a signatory. It outlines the need for collaboration between government, public services and employers. The recommendation addresses public health services, public education, anonymous testing, treatment, occupational health and safety, adequate workers’ compensation benefits, and more.

We in CUPE also have responsibility to take action in our workplaces, our communities and globally,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury, in a joint statement. “There are many ways you and your locals can work for change.”

For example, you can use CUPE’s Bargaining Equality binder to check that your collective agreement includes protection against discrimination for union members living with HIV or AIDS. You can also consult the useful resources and links at the Canadian AIDS Society, including those on workplace issues

We hope you’ll participate in events in your communities to mark this important date.