The recent ITF Africa regional HIV/AIDS seminar in Malawi so inspired Davison Kambudzi, general secretary of the Central East Africa Railway Workers Union, that he said publicly for the first time that he had been living positively for four years.
Kambudzi committed to starting the process of creating a network of HIV-positive transport workers in Malawi. He also urged all union leaders and workers to go for voluntary counselling and testing and to come out openly as an HIV activist if they are positive.
The seminar brought together 21 trade union leaders from 14 countries from June 5-7 to build trade union capacity to develop workplace HIV policies and to negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with HIV/AIDS clauses. They also developed campaign plans to tackle stigma and discrimination. The USAFIRI Mombasa chapter (the first network in Africa of HIV positive transport workers) and the regional offices of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) facilitated sessions.
Ten of the participants were women leaders and educators from ITF affiliates, reflecting the importance of gender in the response to Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, where 60 per cent of all new infections are among women.
The Zambian National Union of Transport and Allied Workers (NUTAW) shared its success over the last 12 months of signing six CBAs with HIV clauses and its hopes for improving benefits for positive workers. Uganda’s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union described how it was using HIV/AIDS wellness centres to organise unorganised workers and planned to form the Uganda chapter of USAFIRI.
ITF Africa regional secretary Joe Katende commented: “Transport workers are highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. We want to empower them and their families to speak out openly about the disease and take action to help eradicate discrimination, stigma and isolation and encourage people to acknowledge the risk.”