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Fiji needs national work code on HIV

FIJI TIMES ONLINE - Tuesday, April 28, 2009
AIDS, the sixth leading cause of death in the world, is a disease of inequality that affects workers who are the drivers of national economies, says UNAIDS Co-ordinator for the Pacific Region Stuart Watson. As such, national efforts must be mobilised to deal with disruptions to productivity, he said. Mr Watson made the comment while opening the 2009 World Day for Safety and Health at Work programme at the Tanoa Plaza in Suva today.

It is important to take a moment and note a few trends of the epidemic," he said. "It is still expanding; in fact, it is globalising.

"A little more than a quarter century ago it was not even known. Now it is the sixth leading cause of death in the world_ the sixth after heart disease, stroke and respiratory illness."

He expanded on how HIV is unlike other health problems faced today.

When you look at maternal mortality, child mortality and other similar global health challenges, there is a direct link between low income and poverty, but thats simply not true for HIV, said Mr. Watson. He said this was the case in the Pacific.

In virtually every country HIV is associated with key economic and work sectors, the maritime and fisheries industries in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall islands; and peace keeping and tourism in Fiji," he said.

Economic inequality, social inequality marginalisation of groups because of sexual orientation or other factors, immigrants, mobility, lack of access to service, all of these factors have created the perfect storm. A perfect storm that sets HIV apart from other health issues."

Hence the importance of a roadmap for responding to HIV, stressed Mr Watson. Reiterating the theme for this years World Day for Safety: 'Health and Life at Work: A basic human right', he reminded participants that complacency in responding to HIV is not acceptable.

Believing that HIV is someone elses problem and not something that we all need to deal with in our homes and offices is indeed a violation of human rights and dignity," said Mr Watson.

The programme involved representatives from the Fiji Employers Federation, Fiji Trade Unions Congress, Ministry of Labour and the International Labour Organisation.

On their agenda is the discussion of Fijis National Code of Practice for HIV. They will also attend a HIV101 session with the Fiji Red Cross.

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