What Unions Say About HIV Infected Workers
The largest union movement in the country, the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU) has no illusions about promoting the need to protect,
defend and show solidarity with people who are living with the HI virus and
According to COSATU, there is an urgent need to fight against fears:
"People cannot get HIV or AIDS from working with a person, touching
them, sharing dishes or food, or caring for them. People can get it from
unprotected sex, including unprotected sex with their infected husband or
wife. People can get HIV from blood transfusions. Babies can get it from the
birth process, or from their mother’s milk.
"People with HIV can live long and health lives, and have healthy
children. But they need to have good food, decent working and living
conditions, and medical treatment. And they need solidarity from comrades,
family and friends."
COSATU says we must fight against ignorance: "Some people think only
immoral behaviour causes HIV. This is mistaken. The issue is not how someone
gets HIV or AIDS – AIDS is a disease, like TB or cancer. The important issue
is how we as workers, family members and community activists should deal with
it. Union members and all workers must find ways to support each other. Our
strength is our unity!
COSATU believes in fighting isolation, discrimination and abuse: "We are
against gossip and lies about people with HIV or AIDS. As trade unionists, we
believe in solidarity. Our universal slogan is: ‘An injury to one is an injury
to all.’ That means we must campaign against discrimination by management and
by fellow workers. No comrade or their family members may be isolated or face
unfair practices. Work together to ensure treatment, food and decent housing and
jobs for all our people. Negotiate our demands on HIV and AIDS in every
workplace. Every employer should have a workplace policy on HIV and AIDS that
protects our rights and health. Make sure no worker loses their job because of
their HIV status."