Workplace policies on HIV
ACORD is committed to building a working environment in which all staff are well informed about HIV and AIDS and where infected and affected staff are able to disclose their status and express their views and concerns freely and openly. We seek a collective spirit and willingness to face up to the reality of HIV and AIDS both within and outside the workplace.
ACORD has developed expertise working with partner organisations in Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to support them in implementing workplace policies on HIV. However we are also very aware of the need to ensure our own house is in order, so part of our workplace focus has been in internal.
Case study: Condoms in the ACORD secretariat
At the start of implementing the workplace policy in the secretariat, condoms (male and female) were made available to staff in the office. Initially condom dispensers were placed in the wash room where more people would access them more freely but we were faced with some challenges. The building that houses ACORD is owned by the church and the management could not agree to this. For this reason, condom dispensers were placed at the reception where they are accessed by both staff and other visitors as the matter is pursued with the building management.
From the start there were mixed reactions to the condom issue from staff. Some of the comments made were:
"We are promoting immorality"
"People should stick to their partners and be faithful"
"What will visitors think of Us as the condoms are in the reception area?"
However some staff welcomed the move as "better late than never."
From these statements it is discernable that different people in the society are still holding on to culture or religious beliefs that are retrogressive to the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is therefore imperative that to increase awareness of the pandemic as most staff feel it doesn't concern them - yet it is a known fact that 'if you are not infected, you are affected.'
In order to help improve the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS, ACORD in Kenya identified a group called Majengo Widows and Orphans Red Ribbon Awareness Group who make red ribbons and condom dispensers and sell for a livelihood. Dispensers and ribbons were purchased from this group and ACORD also advised interested parties to purchase from them. Other groups are being identified with whom ACORD could network and share information.
Finally it is acknowledged that there has been generally a positive response and use of condoms. Initially most staff as well as visitors were shy, but with time most have gained courage and now openly pick them up for themselves and even for their friends and family members. Awareness of the existence and use of female condoms has also improved.
By Margaret Wamukoya