Unions working to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Canada and abroad

"The Liberal government has an excellent opportunity as it negotiates a new Health Accord to put concrete measures in place to support people living with AIDS and HIV. This means more funding, more research, increased support systems, and access to more affordable drugs." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer

Ottawa (01 Dec. 2016) — On World AIDS Day, December 1, each year, we reflect on the progress that has been made to support people with HIV/AIDS, and to recognize how much more work needs to be done.

World leaders have unanimously committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In order to reach that goal, UNAIDS developed a series of targets called 90-90-90. That means by 2020, there is hope that

  • 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status;
  • 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained treatment; 
  • 90 percent of those receiving treatment will have suppressed viral loads.

Unions have long been part of the fight against HIV/AIDS, through awareness raising, developing workplace policies, investing in local, national and global initiatives, advocating for government action and challenging stigma.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been a partner in several campaigns to help support people living with HIV/AIDS. Most recently, NUPGE has supported the Bracelet of Hope campaign to support those with HIV/Aids in the African country of Lesotho.

Here’s a look at what Canadian unions are doing now to get us to 90-90-90 by 2020.

Work in Canada

For over a decade, the Canadian Labour Congress has worked to support HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing and treatment through partnerships with Canadian organizations like the Council of AIDS Service Organizations, RESULTS Canada, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and coalitions like the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, and the Global Treatment Access Group.

There is still work to do. Right now, HIV prevalence in Canada is still increasing — up 9.7 per cent since 2011. Approximately 21 per cent of Canadians with HIV are unaware of their status.

Canada has endorsed the 90-90-90 commitment but strategic plan needed

The Canadian government endorsed 90-90-90 last year, and unions are challenging the government to implement concrete plans to get us to those targets.

Plans must involve the communities most impacted. Men who have sex with men have HIV incidence rates 131 times higher than other men. Canadians from HIV-endemic countries and Indigenous communities are also disproportionately impacted. Only by working with these communities to tackle stigma and support education, prevention and treatment, can we get to 90-90-90 in Canada.

Appreciation for health care and community care workers that help provide the best care

"The Liberal government has an excellent opportunity as it negotiates a new Health Accord to put concrete measures in place to support people living with AIDS and HIV," said Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurer of NUPGE>

"This means more funding, more research, increased support systems, and access to more affordable drugs," Ballermann said. "This needs to happen, not only in Canada but around the world. This is a global fight."

She continued, "Our deepest appreciation goes out to our members who work as health care providers and as community service workers to help Canadians receive the best treatment and care they deserve."

Our international activism

For the past 2 years, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has been involved in a historic project in Nigeria: a partnership between Canadian and Nigerian unions, governments, and employers to help Nigeria meet the International Labour Organization (ILO) standard on HIV/AIDS.

After initial meetings, the CLC engaged an on-the-ground national coordinator to support African unions calling for national HIV/AIDS assessments. Since this February, she has been working with the ILO, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Nigerian government, unions, civil society and other stakeholders to hold the first-ever national assessment on HIV/AIDS in Africa. Those involved hope the assessment will not only make change in Nigeria, but will also serve as a model for other countries.

The work in Nigeria would not be possible without the support of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Labour Fund. Since the fund was established in 2003, unions raised more than $500,000 to support unique, collaborative projects with unions in the following countries: Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mozambique, Senegal, Ghana, Botswana and Rwanda.

Thousands of workers in Africa have received preventative education through this fund, which has also supported testing programs, union HIV/AIDS conferences, production of awareness materials, and incorporation of gender analysis into HIV/AIDS work.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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