An ILO report highlights the toll HIV and AIDS continue to take on the labour force, and its economic and social implications. The ILO calls for urgent efforts to close the treatment gaps, step up testing and prevention measures, and ensure workers can enjoy healthy and productive lives.
In addition to human suffering, HIV and AIDS cause billions of dollars in lost earnings, largely as a result of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of workers that could be prevented with treatment, the ILO said. Lost earnings attributable to AIDS – as a result of death or inability to work – show a substantial decline from 2005, when they totalled almost $17 billion, but are still projected to amount to $7.2 billion in 2020. The report entitled, The Impact of HIV and AIDS on the World of Work: Global Estimates which was prepared in collaboration with UNAIDS, examines how the evolution of the HIV epidemic and the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) have impacted the global labour force and how it is projected to do so in the future, and assesses the economic and social impacts of HIV on workers and their households.
The report shows that labour force deaths attributed to HIV and AIDS are projected to fall to 425,000 in 2020, from 1.3 million in 2005. The greatest incidence of mortality is among workers in their late 30s. “This is the age workers are normally at the peak of their productive life. These deaths are totally avoidable if treatment is scaled up and fast tracked,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General.
The good news is that AIDS treatment is keeping workers productive. The number of workers living with HIV either fully or partially unable to work has fallen dramatically since 2005, and this trend is projected to continue. The total number of those estimated to be fully unable to work is expected to decline to about 40,000 in 2020 from a 2005 level of about 350,000 – an 85 per cent decline for men and a 93 per cent decline for women.
The report also looks at the “hidden costs” – the burden of care or additional chores for members of the household. In 2020, some 140,000 children will carry out an added, child-labour level chore burden, according to the medium prediction, while an additional full-time equivalent of 50,000 full-time workers will perform unpaid care work. The number of workers living with HIV increased from 22.5 million in 2005 to 26.6 million in 2015. It is projected to rise to close to 30 million in 2020, even if ART is scaled up as projected. “Mere scaling up of treatment is not enough. Testing and HIV prevention measures also need to be stepped up if we are going to end AIDS. This makes human sense. And this makes astute economic sense,” added Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General.