Delegates at an international trade union congress passed a unanimous resolution this week to combat HIV/AIDS.

The resolution Fighting HIV/ AIDS was presented by ACTU president Sharan Burrow at the XVIII International Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Miyazaki, Japan.

The first thing unions need to do is make sure that at all levels of their activism people understand that AIDS is in danger of stealing workers’ lives, Burrow said in a video message, and spoke of losing close friends to AIDS.

The resolution commits the ICFTU to work for strong and effective action to prevent, control and ultimately eradicate HIV and AIDS, and includes complementary action such as support for positive people and fighting discrimination.

The 234 member groups of the confederation pledged to raise HIV/AIDS on the trade union agenda worldwide, to encourage unions to include a component in their trade union education programs on HIV/AIDS employment and to campaign in favour of universal access to affordable generic drugs.

The secretary of ICFTU Guy Ryder told the Congress it was his personal commitment to put HIV/AIDS at the top of the organisation’s agenda.

President of AFAO Darren Russell welcomed the resolution as a big step for the union movement.

It’s fair to say it’s a wonderful development and AFAO applauds the unions’ stance against HIV/AIDS, Russell told Sydney Star Observer. Many of the countries that are worst affected by HIV/AIDS also have strong union movements and this will be a heartening development in those countries.

Russell also praised the resolution for acknowledging the detrimental effect of economic and social inequalities and deeply rooted cultural attitudes and taboos in fighting HIV/AIDS. The resolution states: Women, young people, migrants, refugees, gays and lesbians are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.

I think the world union movement has certainly come a long way, Russell said. They used not to be too friendly I suppose to gay and lesbian issues, but increasingly gay and lesbian rights have been seen to be human rights.

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