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Home > Transport International Magazine > Issue 36 - July 2009 > Kenya dockers win HIV policy

Kenya dockers win HIV policy

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Kenya dockers win HIV policy
Kenya dockworkers at the launch of the new HIV/AIDS workplace policy.

A dockworkers’ union in Kenya has successfully lobbied the port authority for a workplace HIV/AIDS policy. Kenya Port Authority, which has 6,000 workers, launched its forward-thinking policy earlier this year at Mombasa port. ITF affiliate, the Kenya Dockworkers’ Union, played a key role in developing this policy and will also be involved in monitoring it.

What will the policy do for workers?

According to Simon Sang, general secretary of the dockworkers’ union, the policy will help to “fight stigma and discrimination at the workplace. This will ensure mobilisation of resources to support and sustain HIV and AIDS programmes at workplace. The policy not only covers workers, but also their dependents which includes ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs) for all of them.”

The guiding principle of the policy is non-discrimination against employees, eligible dependents and job applicants in access to employment, training, promotion, employee benefit and access to services on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV status.

How serious is the problem of HIV/AIDS in Kenya?

Recent data from the Kenya AIDS indicator survey showed that the HIV prevalence rate, stands at 7.4 per cent. The majority of HIV-infected Kenyans do not know their HIV status, so they cannot receive appropriate care and treatment. Also these people are not able to learn how they can protect their sexual partners and children from being infected by HIV. Out of the 1.4 million Kenyans estimated to be living with HIV, 83 per cent, about one million people, do not know their HIV status.

Women face a considerably higher risk of infection than men and also experience a shorter life expectancy due to HIV/AIDS. In order to meet the country’s HIV prevention, care and treatment goals, the government has started an extensive programme to test 80 per cent of Kenyans by 2010. To achieve this target, it has launched accelerated HIV testing and counselling campaigns in health facilities, mobile VCT (voluntary counselling and testing) sites, door to door and other outreach approaches for free. These campaigns will supplement existing routine HIV testing services.

What else has the union been doing on the issue?

The Kenya Dockworkers’ Union organised an HIV awareness programme, including promotion of VCT during the yearly interdepartmental football tournament. Peer educators from the union participated in these events. They performed dramas and recited poems on the dangers of HIV and AIDS. These performances were done during half time and kept football fans entertained as well as informed. They used a football analogy to spread the safe sex message, warning footballers not to play “bare footed” because the “ground is full of thorns”.

The women’s football team also played an exhibition match on the final day of the tournaments. This event attracted a large number of employees and employers who came to cheer their respective departments.

Last year, the Kenya Dockworkers’ Union, in collaboration with the Kenya Port Authority, organised a workshop on gender equality and HIV/AIDS in Lamu. Lamu is a small island with a population of about 100,000, most of whom are Muslims. This was the first time that the union had organised such a workshop in the area so there was lots of enthusiasm from members and management. The workshop discussed issues related to sexuality, factors contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS, the importance of women’s empowerment in preventing infections and dealing with HIV/AIDS at the workplace, including fighting stigma and discrimination.

Trade unions, including the ITF affiliate, the Kenya Railway and Allied Workers’ Union, are playing an important role in the national response against HIV/AIDS. The union started implementing a workplace HIV/AIDS programme with peer education programmes for all workers. Peer educators are helping other workers to get correct information, resolving myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. They also help them to get access to VCT, condoms and management of sexually transmitted infections. Recently the union organised a special VCT session which was attended by a large number of leaders and workers. This type of session is very important in a setting where most of the people do not know their HIV status.

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Copyright © 2012 ITF
ITF House, 49-60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DR  |  +44 20 7403 2733   |  mail@itf.org.uk