Morocco: Coming together to strengthen the AIDS response in the workplace
10 July 2009
The world of work is a key arena for successfully challenging the AIDS epidemic, which affects the most economically active in every population. The majority of those living with the virus across the globe are workers. To promote this challenge in Morocco, the Ministry of Employment, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNAIDS, hosted a two-day national workshop on HIV workplace programmes in Casablanca at the end of June.
Bringing together actors from a number of sectors, the meeting included representatives from trade unions, government ministries, employers and businesses, NGOs, people living with HIV, medical officers and experts. It is the first of this scale and reach to be held and over 60 discussion topics were explored.
The initiative of developing a sectoral plan on HIV workplace programmes by the Ministry of Employment makes Morocco a pioneer country among other low prevalence countries.
Dr Moucharafou Idohou, ILO/AIDS National Project Coordinator
The main aim of the workshop was to progress towards the development of a strategic AIDS plan. This three-pronged plan would include: HIV prevention in the workplace; care and support for people living with the virus and tacking stigma and discrimination; and management and coordination of the challenge to AIDS.
In order to arrive at this goal, the first day of the meeting was devoted to exploring the country's AIDS response in the world of work to date, which included a high-level discussion on challenges and lessons learned in developing HIV programmes in this sector. The principles and guidelines of the ILO, with emphasis on its Code of Practice on HIV and the world of work, adopted in 2001, were also examined.
It was noted that a great deal of good work had already been achieved by a number of individuals and organizations, including the Association Marocaine de Lutte contre le Sida (Moroccan Association for the Fight against AIDS - ALCS), AIDS Entreprises Morocco (a national network of companies working on HIV and STI programmes in the workplace), as well as trade unions and occupational physicians. However, all still face a number of constraints in integrating the AIDS response into the world of work.
Dr Moucharafou Idohou, the ILO National Project Coordinator in Benin, attended the Conference to present core ILO policy tools and share experience of workplace action in Francophone West Africa. He said he was pleased at progress made so far. "I congratulate the Moroccan authorities on their commitment to the AIDS response on the basis of a multi-sectoral approach and for including the workplace in this response. The initiative of developing a sectoral plan on HIV workplace programmes by the Ministry of Employment makes Morocco a pioneer country among other low prevalence countries."
The challenge to AIDS in the workplace is a key opportunity on the road to achieving universal access. We must pay special attention to the workers who are most at risk in terms of HIV infection and to the informal sector.
Dr Kamal Alami, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Morocco
While working towards the development of the strategic plan, participants took a number of areas into consideration. They debated how to move towards implementing a programme aimed at the most vulnerable, i.e. informal and mobile workers.
Also necessary would be strengthening the capacity of employers’ organizations, unions and other business institutions, while mobilizing their resources for HIV prevention and education activities and challenging stigma and discrimination. How to continue raising awareness of the human rights aspect of HIV and its impact on companies, and setting a legal framework which could serve as a basis for national AIDS programmes responding to HIV in the world of work, were also discussed.
There were a number of conclusions emerging from the workshop. The delegates recommended:
- Setting up a national committee to focus on HIV in the workplace with representation from employers, unions and the government;
- Development of advocacy activities to sensitize social partners;
- Adapting the legislative framework to ensure good HIV programmes in the . workplace;
- More research on most at risk groups;
- Mobilization of national and international funding to implement the strategic AIDS plan.
The government of Morocco, through the Ministry of Employment, reiterated its commitment and willingness to work with its partners to effectively implement a national plan to respond to HIV and STIs in the workplace.
According to UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Morocco, Dr Kamal Alami, “The challenge to AIDS in the workplace is a key opportunity on the road to achieving universal access. We must pay special attention to the workers who are most at risk in terms of HIV infection and to the informal sector."