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workers in HIV crisis
May 09, 2005
have to pay 3% of their wages to the government to help fight HIV/Aids,
but very little of that money returns to them. Now they are turning to
international donors to fight the pandemic, the country's trade unions
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was reacting to a report
by Zimbabwe's National Aids Council (NAC), released last week.
Nathan Banda, who heads the Health and Safety Project for the ZCTU, said:
"(We) have plans, like counselling and support centres in many workplaces.
However, we cannot get these to work because the government has continually
denied us money from the NAC coffers."
The new NAC report noted the absence of co-ordinated strategies to help
those affected by the disease, and said that small business operators
and the informal sector were frequently excluded from government HIV/Aids
care and prevention programmes.
The ZCTU attributed the rising incidence of HIV infection among workers
to a lack of effective workplace management programmes aimed at the labour
In 1999, Zimbabwe imposed a tax on earnings to help pay for Aids-related
health care costs. The tax was expected to bring in about R160 million
But, the ZCTU said, very little of that money had trickled through to
Research conducted by the ZCTU in 2004 showed that one out of every four
workers was HIV-positive, but Banda warned that this figure reflected
only HIV prevalence among urban workers.
Dr Owen Mugorongi, an official in charge of HIV/Aids and TB programmes
in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, conceded that the findings
in the national report had been overtaken by developments since the research
had been completed.
"We would like to fund every little programme that takes us a step forward
in the fight against HIV/Aids, but we are facing serious financial problems,
and programmes simply cannot take off," Mugorongi said.
The ZCTU has started applying to international donor organisations for
direct funding for HIV/Aids workplace programmes. Over the next three
years, the unions will need at least R9 million to set up and sustain
drop-in assistance centres in workplaces. - Mercury Foreign Service
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