More than 300,000 HIV positive in Caribbean work force
Guyana Chronicle
July 13, 2004

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BANGKOK, Thailand, ( – More than 300,000 workers in Guyana, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Belize and Trinidad & Tobago are HIV positive and in the labour force.

That’s according to the International Labour Organisation which released the findings in a report at the XV International AIDS Conference, which opened in Bangkok Sunday.

In Guyana, according to researchers, there were an estimated 7,500 HIV positive workers, between 15 and 64, in the work force.

Haiti has the largest number, with a whopping 222,600 while its neighbour, the Dominican Republic, has 66,200. Both countries have the highest number of HIV infected workers in the region.

Trinidad and Tobago was found to be close behind with some 22,000 while there were 4,400 in The Bahamas and 2,300 in Belize.

The report, titled, `HIV/AIDS And Work: Global Estimates, Impact And Response’, also found that for the entire Latin America and Caribbean region, the number of infected workers was 917,600.

Globally, more than 40 million people are infected with HIV, with at least 26 million being workers aged 15 to 49, in the prime of their working lives, said the report.

“The effects are felt by enterprises and national economies as well as workers and their families,” stated ILO officials. “The epidemic strikes hard at the most vulnerable groups in society including the poorest of the poor, women and children, exacerbating existing problems of inadequate social protection, gender inequalities, and child labour.”

The ILO also estimates that in the absence of increased access to treatment, the number of workers lost due to HIV/AIDS will have increased to 48 million by 2010 and 74 million by 2015, making HIV/AIDS one of the biggest causes of mortality in the world of work.

The new analysis of 50 countries also says HIV/AIDS is expected to have a severe impact on the rate of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and of GDP per capita by destroying the "human capital" built up over years and weakening the capacity of workers and employers to produce goods and services for economies.

"HIV/AIDS is not only a human crisis, it is a threat to sustainable global, social and economic development," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

"The loss of life and the debilitating effects of the illness will lead not only to a reduced capacity to sustain production and employment, reduce poverty and promote development, but will be a burden borne by all societies – rich and poor alike."

The report was prepared on the basis of newly developed demographic and epidemiological data from the United Nations and other sources that allow for such global projections of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the world of work for the first time.

Among the key findings in the report:

** of the 35.7 million persons between the ages of 15 to 49 estimated by UNAIDS to be infected with HIV, 26 million are workers. If all working-age persons, including those aged up to 64 and others performing informal work either inside or outside their homes are added, the estimated number of persons with HIV climbs to 36.5 million.

** The direct impact of HIV/AIDS on workers is twofold. While tens of millions have already died, millions more are dropping out of the labour force. The ILO estimates that in 2005, two million workers globally will be unable to work - up from 500,000 in 1995. By 2015, the number will double to four million people who are unable to work due to HIV/AIDS.

** Other economically active workers will be forced to shoulder an increased economic burden as the result of their colleagues dying of HIV/AIDS, estimated to be one per cent greater globally in 2015 than in the absence of HIV (five per cent greater in sub-Saharan Africa).

** Other adults in the household of a person with HIV/AIDS will have to shoulder an increased burden of care, estimated to be one per cent greater globally in 2015 than in the absence of HIV (six per cent in sub-Saharan Africa).

** Adults in the working ages, whether or not they are formally considered labour force participants, may have to drop economically productive activities to divert time to care, especially in developing regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. This means that if two million workers are unable to work because of HIV/AIDS, about two million more persons of working age will be unable to work because of care duties, i.e. the indirect impact of care can double the direct impact of the illness where the burden of care is in the household and on the family.

"These effects of HIV/AIDS on the labour force and on all persons of working age are measurable in their overall impact on economic growth and development", says Franklyn Lisk, Director of the ILO/AIDS programme.

"By causing the illness and death of workers, the HIV/AIDS epidemic reduces the stock of skills and experience of the labour force. This loss in human capital is a direct threat to the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development."