Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.

Two CUPE members are in Mexico City this week for the XVII International AIDS Conference. Here, Gerry Lavallee, co-chair of CUPE’s Pink Triangle Committee, shares some observations.

Today, I attended a workshop entitled HIV on the Job. This workshop really drove home the important role a union plays in protecting workers living with AIDS. A few key points from the workshop are below:

• The majority of the world’s 33 million people living with HIV and AIDS  worldwide are workers.  This includes workers in Canada. In the last 25 years, 25  million people have died of AIDS

• Despite the world economic boom, most of the global population are not seeing  their lives improve as a result.  As well as significant unemployment, many are  underemployed, or not paid for work performed.  Poverty and inequality are  escalating in many countries, increasing the burden and the risk of HIV infection  on the most vulnerable:  women, children and the poor.

• HIV/AIDS must be a priority for trade unions because unions protect the rights of  people at work against stigma, discrimination, compulsory testing and dismissal.   Programs that protect worker’s rights, promote prevention and access to treatment  can reduce the spread of HIV and help mitigate its impact.

My second workshop was of particular interest in light of Health Minister Tony Clement’s recent gaffe at the conference. The Needle and the Damage Done: Addressing HIV among Injection Drug Users discussed harm reduction strategies for intravenous drug users.

• Harm reduction is a comprehensive public health and human rights approach that  aims to reduce social, health and economic harms associated with substance  abuse.  It’s based on providing care, support and resources in a non-judgmental  environment and avoiding further stigmatization of people who use drugs.
• Needle and syringe exchange programs have significantly reduced HIV  transmission among people who us drugs.  Contrary to what some may believe  (including our very own Canadian Health Minister, Tony Clement), research from  the World Health Organization shows that services like needle and syringe  exchange programs as well as safe injection sites do no lead to or increase drug  use in communities.
• Harm reduction services are essential to reducing the risk of HIV infection  among people who use injection drugs. Sadly, they’re not readily available.