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HIV AIDS

We the youth of this 1st National Youth Congress having met on the 10-14th February 2014 and in noting:
  1. That the socio-economic, cultural and political factors in Sub-Saharan Africa have a decisive impact on female, child and youth HIV infection rates. An understanding of these factors will no doubt impact positively on prevention strategies, care and treatment programmes.
  2. That the following common modes of transmission in the sub-Saharan context impact on the spread of the disease:
  • Unprotected sexual contact with an HIV infected person.
  • Through infected blood and blood products.
  • Substance abuse has reached alarming proportions in socially depressed communities in South Africa and the linkage with HIV infection needs no explanation through intravenous drug abuse.
  • From an infected mother to her baby. (Before, during and after birth)
  • Breast feeding
  • Workplace related infections such as needle-stick injuries, contact with contaminated blood.
  1. That the low status of women in society and within relationships makes it difficult for women to protect themselves from infection. Women are therefore unable/ afraid to negotiate sexual relations due to:
    • Lack of education.
    • Socio-cultural inequality.
    • Abject poverty.
    • Burden of care.
    • Gender power imbalances resulting from sexual customs, practices and norms.
    • Resistance to use of condoms based on cultural and social norms.
 
  1. That the high incidence of prostitution, especially in the context of economically depressed communities, where high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality is still a major of concern. Research findings indicate:
    • The age of the sex worker is decreasing.
    • Children as young as nine/ten of age are involved actively in the trade.
    • Given the background of these children they are hardly in a position to negotiate sexual relationships.
  2. That female migrants [local and foreigners] are particularly vulnerable due to increased sexual risk behaviour, such as using sexual networking as a survival strategy in exchange for protection, shelter and food.
 
  1. That opportunistic infection of other diseases often results in the misguided perception that such deaths are not HIV related. This is one of the factors that clouds statistics on deaths related to HIV-AIDS.
 
  1. That the disruption of family life, whilst still considered a legacy of apartheid, is further compounded by the fact that economic opportunities are created in economic hubs located in urban centres. This has lead to greater levels of migration which is not gender specific any longer; neither is migration sector specific. Migrants are often without the protection and support of communal security systems, in the places where they seek employment opportunities.
  2. That in the Southern African context migration patterns and trucking routes have been historically linked to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Research points to the fact that mobility patterns are a relevant factor in so far as the socio-economic motivations which increase vulnerability to HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Some of these factors include:
  • Lack of economic opportunities at sites of origin
  • Poverty and marginalization
  • Civil strife and/or political instability
  1. That transport infrastructure within the country, as well as between the country and its neighbours is relatively good, thus creating the opportunities for increased mobility patterns, which in terms of research confirms infection patterns.
  1. Social norms tend to accept and encourage high numbers of sexual partners, especially among men.
  1. That generally parental norms frown on open discussion of sexual matters, including sex education for children and teenagers in the South African context.
  1. That children are being raped as early as 6 weeks of age and further that:
  • The highest incidence of rape occurred in children between 3 to 4 years of age and that assailants were known to the victims and were often family members.
  • There is an increase of child abuse and a decrease in the average age of the sexual offender, with most offenders being under the age of 18.
  • An increase in the number of children tested positive after a history of sexual assault.
  1. That the following Myths about HIV/AIDS in the sub-Saharan
context seem to be the most persistent:
  • Sex with a virgin can cure a person infected with HIV.
  • AIDS is a homosexual disease and/ or that the Americans have brought the disease to Africa.
  • AIDS is caused by poverty.
  • AIDS can be spread by mosquitoes.
  • Sharing food, drinks, toilets, pools, and utensils can cause AIDS.
  • Hugging, kissing, shaking hands, touching, coughing, sneezing can spread AIDS.
  • An infected individual cannot be re-infected.
  1. The negative effect of informalisation and/or casualisation of jobs is increasingly borne by women. They remain the unfortunate beneficiaries.
  2. That the incidence of children heading households is on a steady increase.
  3. That orphaned children are more vulnerable to HIV-AIDS as well as more likely to undertake migration themselves in the face of depleted social support, thus increasing the risk opportunities that favour infection.
  4. That due to the lack of identity documentation, community based organisations find it difficult to access child support grants on behalf of these children. Many of them are unable to access schooling and given the socio-economic conditions that these children find themselves in, the risk factors such as living on the streets, engaging in transactional sex, drug abuse, and prostitution increases their vulnerability to exposure to the virus as well as other disease.
  5. That there is a strong relationship between HIV/AIDS and maternal deaths, in that ante-natal surveys have shown that maternal deaths tested for HIV infection were in the main found to be HIV positive.
  6. That whilst major urban centres have a roll out programme, the conditions under which rural medical centres function poses challenges. Given, the high prevalence of the disease in rural areas, the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that many people go home ‘to die’. This poses further challenges to rural medical clinics charged with the roll out of ARV’s.
  7. That anecdotal reports record   a growing percentage of infected persons delay treatment until the AIDS Stage so as to qualify for social welfare grants. It seems that this form of ‘Russian Roulette’ is born out of a sheer desperation arising out of socio-economic conditions under which such persons live.
Call on CONSAWU and its affiliates to adopt the following strategies and interventions at local workplace sites.
  • Education and training of affiliate officials as an ongoing priority.
  • Training of affiliate officials as HIV-AIDS counsellors will enhance the provision of services of the trade union at district and regional level.
  • Affiliates undertake the initiatives of formatting, monitoring and implementation of HIV-AIDS policy and legislative formats at the workplace.
  • CONSAWU and its Affiliates advocate the notion of voluntary testing.
CONSAWU and Affiliates prioritise impact factors in forums of social dialogue by advocating towards:
  • Improving socio-economic development and increasing access to better social services in the form of proper housing, clean water, proper sanitation, community clinics enabled to deliver proper medical care.
  • Improving inter-regional trade union action via a collaborative approach that will not only impact on new infection rates, but will also ensure that human and labour rights of workers are protected. It is in the interest of trade unions to reduce the impact of the disease, since the primary focus of trade unions is to enhance the quality of life of workers through the signing of collective labour agreements.
  • Developing the health sector through skills training, increased recruitment as well as negotiating better service conditions for health workers.
CONSAWU and Affiliates explore the notion of community development through corporate social responsibility. Adopted as directed by the Fourth National Congress at this meeting of the NEC held on the 21/22 November 2014 at the Pretoria Hotel, Pretoria, Gauteng Province.
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