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Lesotho union observes AIDS Day

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6 December, 2018One in six adults in Lesotho are living with HIV and AIDS according to UNAIDS. These include young women workers from the textile and garment sector, and unions are taking this up as part of their organizing.

The HIV and AIDS prevalence rate for Lesotho is one of the highest globally and most workers don’t even know their HIV status. This explains why this year’s message of "know your status" for World AIDS Day on 1 December is important. Research shows that once someone knows their status, they will access antiretroviral treatment early and change their lifestyles to avoid further infections or affecting others. This is unlike a situation when someone doesn’t know their status or know it late.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) organized two events in Maseru to mark World AIDS Day with support from the Sub Saharan Africa Region’s union building project and Union to Union. The first was a roadshow at Precious Garments on 29 November during the lunch break where the union distributed sanitary pads and diapers to young working mothers living with HIV and AIDS. The timing meant reaching more than 4,000 workers during lunch time. Precious Garments, like most textile and garment factories in the country, employ over 90 per cent women.

The second event was a mass meeting on 1 December, at which the Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, said the government is willing to work with unions and non-governmental organizations because HIV and AIDS is a social issue which requires collaborative efforts. Over 1,000 workers turned up from the regions of Maputsoe, Maseru, Nyenye and Tikwe.

At both events there were speakers from Lesotho Network for People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPHWA) that IDUL is in a strategic partnership with on HIV and AIDS. While the union fights on workers’ rights to health, the network provides treatment and care for people living with HIV and AIDS, fights stigma and discrimination, and promotes awareness on prevention and treatment.

Says Daniel Teko, the general secretary of IDUL:

“HIV and AIDS affects union members. We have lost brothers and sisters and some children are orphans. It is a social issue that cannot be ignored, and we must work together to deal with the pandemic. IDUL is working with the ministry of health and LENEPHWA to educate its members on prevention, treatment, care, support and related issues.”