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According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), close to 90 per cent of 34 million people living today with HIV are workers engaged in economically productive activity that sustains them and, by extension, their families and communities. For many, however, a positive HIV test result produces devastating consequences such as discrimination, hiring rejections and even outright job loss.

CUPE participated in the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, in July 2012. Titled “Turning the Tide Together”, the conference brought together workers on the basis that action on HIV/AIDS needs to take place in the workplace. Issues raised by trade unions included the need to eliminate employment-related discrimination, new infections and AIDS-related deaths. 

The conference was an opportunity for CUPE to voice its opposition to the unjust free trade and investment agreements that threaten access to generic pharmaceuticals and put forward the need to strengthen the public sector and social protections that are being eroded through austerity and privatization programs.

Alternatives proposed included increased corporate taxation and the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). Our connection to others working on this issue is critical for a coordinated response. 

CUPE continues to work with unions and civil society organizations worldwide in the campaign for universal access to treatment, prevention and support. CUPE’s second national strategic meeting on HIV/AIDS was held in October 2012 where ITUC Africa HIV/AIDS coordinator, Yahya Msangi, participated and provided a valuable perspective in the fight against HIV/AIDS globally.