AIDS remains a cause of child labour despite progress

Trade unions take action on HIV orphans and child labour.

A new progress report released by UNICEF titled "Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed" is showing that AIDS remains a leading cause of children’ deaths in high-prevelence countries, despite progress.

An estimated 3.4 million children under 15 years old were living with HIV in 2011, 91% of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these children acquire HIV from their HIV-infected mothers during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

In addition, millions more children every year are indirectly affected by the epidemic as a result of the death caused in their families and communities. Earlier this year, in the context of the Convention 118 (Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999), the ILO Committee of Experts noted many concerns at the high number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in countires such as Burundi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and growing risk of engegement of these children in the worst forms of child labour, of becoming victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation or being used in iliciit activities and hazardous work.—en/index.htm

In Tanzania the number of HIV orphans exceeded 1 300 000 representing the word’s third highest number of HIV orphans, after Nigeria and South Africa. Children orphaned due to AIDS (often HIV positive themselves) often face exploitation and discrimination in all areas of their lives, including in their communities, at shools, and often are compound to resort to worst forms of hazardous work.

Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) is taking part in the ILO Child labour project (IPEC). Trade unions started activities aiming at helping children to stop work and register for schooling, and at supporting vocational training programs that equip youth with skills and enhance their meaningful employability.

Currently TUCTA is undertaking a survey to find out the number of HIV orphans whose parents were trade unions members, leaders and workers in order to identify means for mitigating the problem such as establishing trust funds for education of the orphans as well as direct financial instruments that could support access to ART therapy.

“Trade unions have the obligation to care for HIV orphans left by workers because AIDS is a workplace issue and a trade union issue, just as much as orphans are also a trade union” said dr Kassim Meja Kapalata, Director of OHS and AIDS for TUCTA.

Globally, more than 1,000 children are newly infected with HIV every day, and of these more than half will die as a result of AIDS because of a lack of access to HIV treatment.

A lack of necessary investment and resources for adequate testing, antiretroviral drugs, and prevention programmes, as well as stigma and discrimination, mean children continue to suffer.