World Aids Day is an important time to stop and think, and an important moment to be open and honest, raise awareness and dispel the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
I will always remember the first time I wore a red ribbon on the 1st December. I was at secondary school, and I didn’t think twice about proudly wearing it in support of people with HIV/AIDS. However it became a struggle to keep it on through the day as kids taunted me for wearing it, saying it meant I had AIDS.
I’d love to think this wouldn’t happen today (this was well over a decade ago), but the fact is stigma and prejudice against people with HIV is still rife. That is why World Aids Day and the wearing of red ribbons are still so important, and why HIV/AIDS is still an important Trade Union issue. Like all discrimination, Trade Unions take a hard line. Unions and campaigners were successful in getting protection of people with HIV as part of disability discrimination legislation, but as with all such issues the law is only as good as how it is implemented on the ground.
All Trade Unionists need to be continually vigilant against discrimination.
More than this, HIV has become a massive issue for workers across the word. HIV has devastated working people in many developing countries, damaging their ability to live and work and their ability to organise together to make things better. UNISON can be rightly proud of our response and our work with our sister unions internationally. This focuses on supporting Southern African unions in developing their response to HIV through the organisation Public Sector Unions fighting AIDS in southern Africa (PSUFASA).
So today, lets remember all those who have suffered, think about those who are still dealing with HIV and re-double our support for all the work going on across the world.