36.5 Million People of Working Age Have HIV


An estimated 36.5 million people of working age have HIV and by next year the global labor force will have lost as many as 28 million workers due to AIDS since the start of the epidemic, according to a new global report by the International Labor Office (ILO) published today.

Whats more, the ILO estimates that in the absence of increased access to treatment, the number of workers lost due to HIV/AIDS will have increased to 48 million by 2010 and 74 million by 2015, making HIV/AIDS one of the biggest causes of mortality in the world of work.

The new analysis of 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and two developed regions, also says HIV/AIDS is expected to have a severe impact on the rate of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and of GDP per capita by destroying the human capital built up over years and weakening the capacity of workers and employers to produce goods and services for economies.

HIV/AIDS is not only a human crisis, it is a threat to sustainable global, social and economic development, says ILO director-general Juan Somavia. The loss of life and the debilitating effects of the illness will lead not only to a reduced capacity to sustain production and employment, reduce poverty and promote development, but will be a burden borne by all societies -- rich and poor alike.

The report will be presented at the 15th International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand,  July 11-17. It was prepared on the basis of newly developed demographic and epidemiological data from the United Nations and other sources that allow for such global projections of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the world of work for the first time.

Key Findings

Among the key findings in the report:

The ILO report says that of the 35.7 million persons between the ages of 15 to 49 estimated by UNAIDS to be infected with HIV, 26 million are workers. If all working-age persons, including those aged up to 64 and others performing informal work either inside or outside their homes are added, the estimated number of persons with HIV climbs to 36.5 million.

The direct impact of HIV/AIDS on workers is twofold. While tens of millions have already died, millions more are dropping out of the labor force. The ILO estimates that in 2005, 2 million workers globally will be unable to work -- up from 500,000 in 1995. By 2015, the number will double to 4 million people who are unable to work due to HIV/AIDS.

Other economically active workers will be forced to shoulder an increased economic burden as the result of their colleagues dying of HIV/AIDS, estimated to be 1 percent greater globally in 2015 than in the absence of HIV (5 percent greater in sub-Saharan Africa).

Other adults in the household of a person with HIV/AIDS will have to shoulder an increased burden of care, estimated to be 1 per cent greater globally in 2015 than in the absence of HIV (6 percent in sub-Saharan Africa).

Adults of working age, whether or not they are formally considered labor force participants, may have to drop economically productive activities to divert time to care, especially in developing regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. This means that if 2 million workers are unable to work because of HIV/AIDS, approximately 2 million more persons of working age will be unable to work because of care duties, i.e. the indirect impact of care can double the direct impact of the illness where the burden of care is in the household and on the family.

These effects of HIV/AIDS on the labor force and on all persons of working age are measurable in their overall impact on economic growth and development, says Franklyn Lisk, director of the programCode of Practice the same year to guide responses to the epidemic as a workplace issue.

Several countries have drafted enlightened legislation in the form of revised or new laws that can play an important role in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS at the workplace and protecting the rights of persons who are living with HIV/AIDS.

There are efforts in numerous countries in a range of response areas focusing on both prevention and treatment that include developing national sectoral policies, community efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination, private sector initiatives to promote prevention, behavioral change communications for workers and, finally, treatment programs in the workplace, which are increasingly seen by a range of enterprises as the least costly option to maintain profitability and ensure growth.

Not all the news is bad, however. While the ILO underscores the dramatic impact that HIV/AIDS has on the labor force, on rural societies and on the economy, it stresses that the workplace holds out extraordinary promise as part of the solution.

The workplace is an ideal medium for a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS, said Odile Frank, coordinator of the report. Work provides a venue -- the workplace -- where talking about HIV/AIDS is especially relevant, where prevention skills can be directly transmitted, and where treatment can be exceptionally productive.

Source: International Labor Office (ILO)


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