On World AIDS Day, we reflect on friends and family members we have lost since the emergence of this pandemic more than 30 years ago. And while an encouraging United Nations report reveals the positive impact of international prevention and treatment programs, more than 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related illness last year.
From our shared grief emerges new hope in the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
Today – and every day – the Department of Labor is proud to be among the six lead federal agencies responsible for implementing President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States –the nation’s first comprehensive plan for responding to HIV/AIDS.
Thanks to President Obama concluding a successful bipartisan effort to end the travel entry ban on people living with HIV, the International AIDS Conference at last returned to the United States for the first time in 22 years. Along with the National Working Positive Coalition, the Labor Department hosted an Institute on HIV/AIDS and Employment during the conference.
From the institute emerged a common theme: Work is a fundamental part of life. A good job is much more than a paycheck; it offers purpose and the opportunity to lead an independent, self-directed life for all people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.
Through our department’s aggressive public education campaign, we inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under federal law – including that workers cannot be denied employment, harassed or otherwise discriminated against because of their HIV status. Our Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is prioritizing investigations of employment discrimination on this front.
My department’s Wage and Hour Division is vigorously enforcing the Family and Medical Leave Act so that workers with HIV/AIDS have the workplace flexibility and medical privacy guaranteed by law, while our Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces safety standards to prevent inadvertent HIV/AIDS transmission in the workplace.
And our Office of Disability Employment Policy has developed a suite of specific resources and tools directed to employers, service providers and individuals with HIV/AIDS who are looking to enter or re-enter the workplace, while promoting the availability of reasonable accommodations for workers living with HIV/AIDS.
Internationally, my department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs continues to promote global awareness of compassionate approaches to HIV/AIDS by helping other countries develop policies and programs to combat job discrimination.
We have come so far to save and improve countless lives over the course of this crisis. On this World AIDS Day, as we carry with us the memory of those who have lost their own battle, we move one step closer to a world free of AIDS.