While the AIDS movement has always shown that health is interconnected with many critical issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has once again brought this to the forefront. Poverty, violence and other forms of marginalization mean the impacts of this ongoing epidemic are not shared equally. Women, people with disabilities, and racialized and Indigenous peoples have higher rates of AIDS and HIV, and face greater barriers to treatment and vital services. These barriers have become increasingly difficult to overcome during the COVID-19 pandemic. This inequality is unacceptable, and our union remains committed to fighting it.
Thirty years ago, CUPE took a stand against the stigma and discrimination faced by people with AIDS and HIV. CUPE 4014 supported a grievance when a member was pulled from his job as a flight attendant because he had AIDS. Hans Olav Prins was taken off his job at Pacific Western Airlines even though two company doctors said he was fit to fly (Pacific Western became Canadian Airlines in 1987, which in turn was taken over by Air Canada in 2001).
Hans died before the landmark arbitration decision that set a precedent protecting workers with AIDS and HIV from discrimination. His bravery and determination continue to inspire CUPE to keep up the fight against the stigma faced by workers with AIDS and HIV.
Since then, CUPE has developed education materials and workshops for members, challenged discrimination in health plans, and tackled criminalization and racism faced by people with AIDS and HIV.
On World AIDS Day, CUPE encourages its members to learn more about the AIDS movement, and to continue this important work in their locals.
Actions you can take include:
- Participate in the United Nations’ ongoing HIV/AIDS campaigns. For World AIDS Day 2020, UNAIDS is putting the spotlight on inequalities and how to end them.
- Learn more about Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week.
- Invite a discussion, in person or online, with members about how HIV/AIDS is a union issue. Use CUPE educational resources, including our HIV/AIDS booklet, bargaining checklist and health and safety fact sheet.
- Attend or host a World AIDS Day event virtually or in your community.