Closing the gap through decent work, social protection

(Statement by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder on World AIDS Day 2014)

People living with HIV experience, on average, record unemployment rates three times higher than the national average. Closing the gap – the theme of this World AIDS Day – is a strong reminder that despite significant progress, we have left behind some populations at heightened risk of infection.

We can only achieve our goal of ending AIDS by 2030 if we effectively address their needs, which include decent jobs, respect for their labour rights and social protection coverage.

HIV-related discrimination, gender based violence and inequalities remain major obstacles to the uptake of HIV services, including testing. As of 2013, 19 million out of an estimated 35 million people living with HIV worldwide – more than half – were unaware of their HIV status.

Where stigma and discrimination are prevalent, workers will be less likely to seek information, testing and treatment services, for fear of losing their jobs and their livelihoods. People need to be aware of their HIV status so that they can seek treatment and prevent the further spread of the virus.

Responding to this challenge, the ILO launched the VCT@Work Initiative, in collaboration with UNAIDS and a range of partners. To date, the initiative has reached over one million workers and mobilised close to 500,000 to undertake the HIV test, 37 per cent of whom are women.

The UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2014 shows how successful we have been in breaking the conspiracy of silence, and bending the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic. But it also reminds us that we still have essential unfinished business in order to eradicate AIDS by 2030.

Adequate social protection coverage is part of this unfinished business. Social protection must be expanded to include people living with HIV and their households because it improves their economic security and enables access to and adherence to effective HIV treatment.

In the post-2015 sustainable development scenario, we will have to keep our sights fixed on the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. We need both to expand and speed up our efforts towards the most vulnerable and those who have the least access to treatment.

Eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination and promoting employment and social protection coverage for people living with HIV is an essential part of this agenda.

As we celebrate this World AIDS Day and reflect on how far we have come, let’s accelerate our push to close the gap. Let’s end AIDS by 2030.

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