HIV/Aids – the e-mail that launched 10 000 words!Jenny Grice

Hello comradesLet's talk about HIV/Aids. Today I want each and everyone to be involved in this. I want us to stand up and fight this. Let us start to preach HIV/Aids at our workplace.

Let us talk to our comrades at our companies and even at home talk to our children. They need to understand this. They need to understand how it is transmitted into our blood, and how people get infected.

Our beloved ones are dying out there because of this HIV. Each and every day people lose their lives because of this. Some kill their families and take their lives after knowing their status. Comrades – it is time for us to stand up and fight this.

Together we can make differences. Together we can save people's lives. I am willing to help anyone who needs help. Thabo Chipane, ZF Lemforder, Rosslyn

When Thabo Chipane wrote his short, concise e-mail to those on Numsa's e-mail list, he couldn’t have foreseen the response that he would get. (see box)Respondents took up his issues and branched out in other directions.

The debate showed just what a devastating impact this illness is having on people and how determined people are to take it on and win the battle.

Many proposed that we must encourage everyone to test and that we should run a campaign that says "We are all positive until tested otherwise!" (this idea is also in the resolutions going to this 2008 congress).

Others then said that we should offer testing at the upcoming National Congress and that as leaders we should lead by example. (There will be testing at the Congress but it will be testing for everything – your blood pressure, your sugar level, your cholesterol level and Aids).

There was consensus that once a person has tested for Aids, that the result is for that person alone. Whether he wants to disclose is up to that person.

However, his behaviour must change if he finds himself to be positive. A resolution going to this congress proposes that we should encourage everyone to test and disclose their status. What is your view?

Then there was the question of training and education. Suggestions were that all shop stewards should become peer educators, that we should have a regular slot in Numsa News on Aids. (good idea – we need your contributions – editor!)Others pointed out that even though anti retrovirals (ARVs) cannot cure you they at least offer people a real chance to control their lives again.

Many reiterated resolutions that both Cosatu and Numsa have taken in previous congresses but have not implemented. (Check in the box how many of the resolutions taken at the last Cosatu congress you have implemented in your workplace!)A number of comrades suggested that "Aids attacks no-one but people go out there and engage in irresponsible behaviour that leads to them contracting HIV.

…they chose to be stupid and now we are all affected."Many pointed out that though this was true of some, there were large numbers of victims – women who have been raped, those whose partners have not been faithful to them but have not deemed it necessary to be tested and who continue to engage in unprotected sex.

Others added that then there are those who knowingly continue affecting other people. She suggested that these people "must stop killing each other, they know that they are positive but they continue spreading this sickness.

"The Aids campaign should start "with ME," said Noncedo Sabane. She suggested that each individual should say: "I will be faithful to my partner; I will engage in protected sex at all times regardless of my current status; I will educate my kid about Aids to enable her to make informed decisions when the time is right.

"The issue of the myths around Aids was also raised and how this makes it difficult for us to fight the Aids pandemic – "in my company married women still believe that there is no need for them to go for testing or to protect themselves. Why? Because they are married and cannot be infected even if they know that they can't account for their husbands' whereabouts every second!"With more than 3,5 million in this country infected by Aids, we must take action. Let's hope the congress drives us more to implement what we have already resolved.

Aids resolutions: what have you implemented in your workplace? What we said we would do… Have you done it?

* support systems at workplaces

* workplace communication on Aids

* train peer educators

* normalize HIV infection with other medical conditions

* increase efforts on prevention

Book Review: Against the wall

AUTHOR: Nozipho BhenguReviewed by: Doris Nqetho

The death of her daughter as a result of HIV/Aids was an eye opener for Ruth Bhengu, the deputy mayor of Ugu District Municipality.Her second daughter, Nozipho Bhengu wrote this book before she died of Aids-related complications in 2006.

The book was launched at the family home in Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg on August 30 2008."My daughter's death from the deadly disease totally changed the way I looked at the disease," says Bhengu.

Ruth Bhengu was the first politician to publically disclose her daughter's illness in 2001.In the book Nozipho talks about her feelings of stigmatization and also emphasizes the importance of knowing one's HIV status.

Up to the time of her death Nozipho spoke in public to motivate young people and she held workshops to discuss ways to tackle Aids.Before her death Nozipho asked her mother to write the last chapter of the book.

"She knew she would not be alive to finish it. It was the most difficult thing that I have ever written," said Ruth.Nozipho never blamed anyone for her illness."Against the wall" can be ordered by phoning 031 702 6184. The book costs R60.

A message to all "Swap" Swedish Workplace Aids ProjectsComrades,I write this brief report for all Numsa members who are employed in Swedish-owned companies.

The SWAP project helps to assist workers at these Swedish companies to set up joint forums with management to see that the Aids committees assist families at the workplace and the communities where there are orphanages who are affected/infected by this virus.

As the funding was to end this year, we as the Wellness Committee at Autoliv requested the funding be extended based on getting other companies which have started to be active eg Sandvik (Krugersdorp), Assa Abloy (Roodepoort) as these are nearer to our industrial area (Chamdor).

If other Swedish workers can set up committees the funding can be extended and training and seminars will be conducted. A seminar was just held on September 12-13. The final meeting will be held in November 2008 for approval of 2009 programmes.Rosa Mkhize and John Masela, Autoliv, Chamdor

The long walk to justice ….

Four years ago we carried a story on David Tsewu and how he was forced to take permanent disability after disclosing his HIV status to his employer because he was often sick.Today, David is back at work after Numsa fought for his reinstatement on the grounds of discrimination. He told his organiser, Vanessa Le Roux, the story.

David's story I am just glad to be back at work!

His long walk

March 2004 – dismissed. Numsa refers his case to the Motor Industries Bargaining CouncilMIBCO does not resolve case. Company claims he went on disability, it never fired him. Numsa refers the case to the Labour Court on grounds of discrimination.On the day of the Labour Court hearing, the company agrees to take him back.

18th June 2007 – reinstated

It was a real long walk, I was giving up hope at one stage, but my organiser stuck with me through those difficult times and assured me the end results will be good.

After a struggle of nearly three years we eventually got a date to appear in court. On the day of the case the company decided to settle the matter. They took me back in the same job I had before, my years of service continued, although I did not get full compensation for the time out of work.

The company only paid a certain amount as a settlement. I came back to work on the 18th June 2007. Things are back to normal as compared with what was happening to me at work three to four years back.

People here are acting as if nothing ever happened; maybe it’s because of seeing how strong I am. My manager is very good to me.I’m still doing the same job delivering parts on the scooter for Master Parts.

What has changed is that the company is selling the rain suit to us, we don’t pay for the boots. Since getting my anti-retroviral therapy, I have no problems with the job I’m doing. I’m not sick anymore, I only go for my monthly treatment supply. If it's going to take a few hours they don’t have a problem at work.

If I'm going to use the whole day, then I fill in the sick leave form. I’m still not on medical aid. I get my medication regularly from the public health service. The KTC hospital has transferred me to the Heideveld clinic.

There I have a good relationship with the health care workers, and I even send someone to collect my monthly supply. I also get a counselling session when I’m there to collect my medication.

I did not get my day in court but the lesson I learnt was that there is nothing wrong with being HIV positive. I've been speaking at Cosatu meetings. The Industrial Health and Research Group (IHRG) helped me to speak to other workers not only in Cape Town but workers from Africa.

Union involvement in the issues of HIV/AIDS is very important. Shop stewards must listen carefully to the stories of the workers and work very closely with workers infected and affected with HIV/Aids.I’m not covered by the Pension Fund.

The pension fund rules say I went on permanent disability therefore they cannot accept me back. The company and shopstewards advise me to get a retirement plan; I still need the union’s help with this.Go to your union if you suspect your company treated you unfairly.

I waited long and my case did not even go to the Labour Court but I am reinstated thanks to my union. I am just glad to be back at work! David Tsewu

Indaba ka-DavidCishe eminyakeni emine eyedlule sabhala ngendaba kaDavid Tsewu kuNumsa News nokuthi waphoqwa kanjani ukuthi athathe ukukhubazeka konomphelo emva kokudalula isimo sakhe se-HIV kumqashi wakhe ngoba ubehlala egula. Namhlanje, u-David usebuyele emsebenzini emva kokuba iNumsa yakulwela ukuthi abuyiselwe emsebenzini ngokuthi wayebandlululwa. Uthe “Ngijabulela ukubuyela emsebenzini!”

David se verhaal Amper vier jaar gelede het ons ‘n berig in Numsa News geplaas omtrent David Tsewu en hoe hy gedwing is om permanente ongeskiktheid te aanvaar nadat hy sy MIV-status aan sy werkgewer bekend gemaak het omdat hy dikwels siek was.

David is vandag terug by die werk omdat Numsa op die gronde van diskriminasie vir sy heraanstelling geveg het. "Ek is maar net bly om terug te wees by die werk!" sê David.

Pale ya David E ka ba dilemo tse nne tse fetileng moo re ileng ra phatlalatsa pale ya David Tsewu ho Numsa News le ka moo a ileng a qobellwa ho ba seqhwala saruri ka ho bolela boemo ba hae ba HIV ho boramesebetsi ba hae hobane o ne a kula kgafetsa.Kajeno, David o kgutlile mosebetsing wa hae ka mora ho ba Numsa e lwanele ho kgutliswa ha hae ka baka la ho kgethollwa. "Ke motlotlo haholo ho boela mosebetsing!" ho rialo David.


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