December 1st is the United National World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to reinforcing awareness, global solidarity and action to fulfill our collective duty to end the epidemic in this generation.
Today, we also commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate the victories over the disease, with the increased access to treatment and prevention services.
- 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2016 - 40% of whom were young women and adolescent girls. 1 Canadian is diagnosed with the disease every 3 hours.
- 36.7 million people were globally living with HIV in 2016 - 19 million of whom do not know they are infected; approximately 21% of Canadians with HIV are unaware of their status.
- 1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016.
- 22 million infected people are not accessing life-saving treatment.
- 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
Know your rights
- Status: HIV and AIDS are considered chronic and episodic disabilities, with periods of health interrupted by periods of illness.
- Confidentiality: Most of the time, information about a worker's HIV status is irrelevant to the employer because most jobs do not pose a risk of HIV transmission. Except in limited circumstances, it is unlawful for employers to request this information.
- Right to employment: People with HIV/AIDS have a right to employment without discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate based on HIV/AIDS status upon hire, remuneration, promotion, layoff, and any other terms and conditions of employment.
- Adapted work and workplaces: Employers have a duty to accommodate workers with disabilities, unless it would cause them undue hardship.
- Human rights: Any collective agreement grants workers the applicable federal or provincial/territorial human rights laws.
- Safe workplace: Any employer is responsible for maintaining a safe and harassment-free workplace.
Why HIV and AIDS are your Local's affair
As a union, it is among the Local's missions to advance our members' rights. How does the Local require employers to face their responsibilities regarding HIV and AIDS?
- The language of the agreement provides that the company does not discriminate based on a disability such as HIV/AIDS, by providing for extended medical and health benefits, indispensable to cover the cost of medication and therapies.
- Your Local union representative will assist you if you feel that you have been discriminated against or if there are issues regarding your rights under the collective agreement because of your disability.
- We facilitate opportunities for worker education and awareness, much needed efforts to establish health and safe work environments.
What you can do to help creating a supportive work environment
At home and abroad, you can get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and for access to life-saving treatment.
- Be informed in order to speak and act from a place of knowledge.
- Start the conversation openly in you workplace, at home and in your community.
- Get tested: the largest growing segment of HIV is coming from people who don't know they are positive.
- Ask your employer for access to information, education, and counselling to help create a supportive work environment.
"People living with HIV/AIDS have the fundamental right to be respected," says Lee Riggs, National President of the TWU, USW National Local 1944, "and it is ur duty to challenge any negative attitudes towards them."
For more information about your rights and your possible means of action related to HIV/AIDS, in the workplace or in day-to-day contexts, please visit the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network's web site: www.aidslaw.ca
The Telecommunications Workers Union, United Steelworkers National Local 1944