The world has made tremendous strides in the fight against HIV over the past several years. In most of the world, new infections are down, the average life expectancy of people living with HIV is up and we have good reason to think that 2030 could be the year we declare victory over AIDS.
But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. There are still around 35 million people in the world infected with the virus and one in two of them don’t know it.
That’s especially true among young people, young women in particular. Each year, around 380,000 women between 10-24 years get infected with HIV.
What can we do about it? Voluntary testing and confidential counselling in the workplace, or VCT@WORK, is a proven means of empowering workers to protect themselves and protect the ones they love.
But what’s it like to take the test at work? Is it awkward? Is it scary? Will everyone know the results?
To find out, we talked to three young ILO colleagues who recently took the HIV test right here at the ILO. Here’s what they told us:
Getting tested and having protected sex in general is a form of respect for my own body and the person I care about. But I’ve been travelling for the last 6 months and I never knew where to get tested. As soon as I heard about the free HIV test at the ILO, I thought “Perfect! Finally! And I can do it in the building!”
What’s it like to take the test at work? Is it awkward? Is it scary? Will everyone know the results?
From pre-counselling to the actual test, the process was fast and easy. The lab technician was very thorough in explaining the procedure to me. I won’t lie: I was a bit nervous before getting my result. But in the end, my fear brought home the importance of “loving carefully”. I had nothing to lose by getting tested and would have felt terrible about waiting any longer.
What I appreciated most about my experience with VCT@WORK is that it made getting tested easy. I think it’s a great way of encouraging young people like me to be aware of our status and make getting tested a regular healthy habit.
I used to think of HIV and AIDS as something which didn’t affect me. Even as someone working in an international environment and being aware of HIV and AIDS, you tend to think: it is far away, I don’t need to worry about it. But then I started asking myself: have I always been careful? Can I be sure that I am safe? So I decided to take the test.
Learning about the ILO’s counselling and testing campaign was the perfect opportunity. We talked about it in my office, and in a matter of days, several people got tested.
Of course, not everyone will want to make a social event out of getting tested for HIV. But in our case, it helped us relax and made the whole thing less scary. After all, everyone was thinking the same thing: what if I’m positive? How would that affect my life?
As working women, it is important for us to say: “Testing starts with us. Follow our lead.”
In the end, the whole process was really easy. It was free, on the spot and everyone involved was really considerate. Even before I got the result, I felt better for having done it.
I think the ILO’s counselling and testing campaign has a great potential to help changing the way we think about HIV and AIDS. We are all part of that process. After taking the test, I found myself talking about it and encouraging other people to do the same. If we want to fight HIV and AIDS globally, we have to start with the people we can reach.
ILO hosted an event on World AIDS Day, which really got me thinking. And I wondered: with all the information and resources out there, why do so many young people still get infected? One reason is because half of the people who are living with the virus don’t even know it. How could I be sure I wasn’t one of them unless I got tested?
Talking about sex can be uncomfortable, but we need to keep the conversation going. Beyond encouraging people to know making people aware about their status and the risks they might run, it’s important to fight the stigma and discrimination that prevents so many people from getting tested.
Though we’re making important progress in the battle to end the AIDS epidemic, it is still the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. As working women, it is important for us to say: “Testing starts with us. Follow our lead.”