More than 4.1 million workers and family members have been tested for HIV as part of the VCT@WORK (voluntary counselling and testing at work) initiative, according to a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report.
The initiative, launched in 2013 by the ILO, UNAIDS, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) is seen as a critical step towards achieving the target of ending AIDS by 2030.
Since the launch, over 6 million workers (3,749,420 male, 2,261,806 female and 41,248 who identified themselves as ‘other’) were reached with HIV information, over 4.1 million were counselled and tested for HIV, and over 103,000 who tested positive were referred to access anti retro-viral treatment till the end of 2016.
In 2016 alone, more than 1.2 million were reached with HIV information, 1.1 million took the HIV test, and more than 17,700 tested HIV positive and were referred to treatment, according to the latest VCT@WORK annual report.
“For an informal economy worker, accessing HIV testing means loss of at least half of his or her daily wage, plus the transport cost. We addressed root causes such as these and took services closer to where people live and work. VCT@WORK also shows that is an effective way to reach men with HIV services who are not yet adequately covered in the AIDS response,” said Syed Mohammad Afsar, the ILO official in charge of VCT@WORK in Geneva.
The initiative focusses on populations most at risk, including workers in sectors with a high HIV burden, including the mining, transport, construction, health, and tourism sectors. Migrant and informal economy workers are also the focus of HIV testing initiatives.
An essential part of the campaign is informing workers and their families about the benefits of testing, and their rights if they are found to be living with HIV.
In order to de-stigmatize HIV testing and facilitate increased uptake of VCT services testing is promoted through an integrated and multi-disease initiative.
The Initiative focusses on 18 fast-track countries, where strategic partnerships were forged with key players, including world of work actors, national AIDS programmes and organizations of people living with HIV.
Some of the lessons learned from the initiative include:
- The initiative can be a good model to create demand for HIV services among men.
- Peer educators at workplaces can play an effective role in promoting VCT.
- Testing under the broad umbrella of wellness programmes reduces the stigma around HIV testing.
- Public-private partnerships have a huge potential to scale up HIV testing.
Source: ILO News