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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Message for World Aids Day


Stop AIDS! Keep the promise!

On World AIDS Day 2007, the Congress of South African Trade Unions recommits itself to mobilise all its members in support of the global campaign to defeat HIV and AIDS, and in particular, South Africa's National Strategic Plan to prevent and treat the dea dly pandemic.

This time last year we welcomed the emerging unity between civil society and government on the HIV and AIDS epidemic. We promised then that we would play our part in implementing the National Strategic Plan, which was unveiled earlier this year. It is a st rategy that commits us all to bold and realistic targets, for HIV prevention and treatment, based on the aim of saving a million lives in 2007.

COSATU's Ninth National Congress in September 2006 had already resolved to establish support systems at workplaces and strengthen the practical side of the education and treatment components of the campaign. It set a target of 100 000 workers a month to be covered by union workplace communication on HIV and AIDS and to train 20 000 peer educators annually.

The resolution committed the federation to continue campaigning for free care and treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS accessed from where it is convenient for the and called upon the Department of Health to do its job to protect society from unfo unded claims of cures for HIV and AIDS in violation of the laws of the country.

No-one has taken this resolution to heart more than the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU). We particularly welcome their launch of the country's first union-sponsored funeral benefit scheme specifically for HIV positive workers. I t will provide a funeral benefit to HIV positive members for a one-year period after they have left their employment. This is the first trade union in the country to offer such a post-employment funeral benefit to HIV positive union members.

SACTWU also runs an active HIV/Aids awareness programme. Up to the end of October this year alone, the union has run workplace awareness programmes covering 79 000 clothing, textile and leather workers; trained 951 shop stewards in HIV/Aids awareness issue s and serviced 1 420 workers through its Voluntary Counselling & Testing programme. The union also has a 'healthy worker' programme that emphasises that HIV need not be a life sentence and that healthy living combined with antiretrovirals where these are m edically indicated, can ensure a long and quality life for HIV positive persons.

Let SACTWU be a model for every other affiliate!

COSATU is cautiously optimistic that we are approaching a new dawn for HIV prevention and treatment and care in South Africa, and a long period of national collaboration and partnership between government and civil society.

We have already seen an improvement in the rate at which antiretroviral treatment is being delivered. More people are being tested and we can see and hear a more vigorous promotion of the prevention messages. As a result, for the first time for years, ther e has been a levelling off of the rate of new infections and a real prospect of a decline in the incidence of the virus.

But complacency would be unforgivable. Far too many lives are still being lost which could have been saved. People living with HIV/Aids are still being stigmatised and discriminated against at work and ain their communities. The prevention message is still not reaching everyone. Millions of people have not yet been tested. On all these fronts, the fight must go on and be stepped up.

Once again we echo the prophetic works of Chris Hani, who said: "We cannot afford to allow the AIDS epidemic to ruin the realisation of our dreams. Existing statistics indicate that we are still at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in our country. Unatten ded, however, this will result in untold damage and suffering by the end of the century".

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)