IRIN PlusNews, a publication that covers international news, filed a report on October 27, 2012, detailing the fact that "HIV prevalence among civil servants in Uganda is 16.3 percent, more than twice the national average.. . Some 10.3 percent of hotel and restaurant workers and 9.8 percent of sales officials in Uganda are living with HIV .. ." The virus is affecting 8.6 percent of workers in real estate, 7.4 percent of manufacturing workers, and 7.1 percent in fishing communities.
Why? A Ugandan parliament member suggested reasons: Civil servants take part in many workshops where they meet abundant numbers of potential partners; they also are far from their wives and husbands; they become involved in "reckless behaviors." While men predominate as HIV positive persons in the construction and transport sectors, HIV positive persons are higher among women (7.3 percent ) than among men (5.2 percent).
Why is the rate so high among women? Ugandans say that high mobility, jobs that separate spouses, and sex exploitation, including abuse, rape and even demands for sexual favors lead to this situation. Clearly, female partners lack knowledge, capacity or will to protect themselves with condoms, abstaining or other means. Sometimes, sex as requirement for job promotions or better working conditions is the order of the day.
The Goverment has responded with efforts to reduce HIV in the workplace by trying to end discrimination against infected workers. However, many infected Ugandan workers still don't get promoted, are not trained for better jobs, and may not get access to medical and sickness beneifts. How will their condition affect their old age and that of their families?
The government has a new program assigning occupational health and safety inspectors to prevent workers' exposure to the virus. Do you think this policy will end HIV in the Ugandan workplace?
If not, what might work?
Please send your comments.
Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging